Pilot's flight experience 'marginal'

DANBURY TWP. A Mansfield pilot who crashed his 1972 Cessna 340 Saturday had flown seven hours with h
May 24, 2010



A Mansfield pilot who crashed his 1972 Cessna 340 Saturday had flown seven hours with his new plane, but was considered to have "marginal" experience overall.

Pilot David Eckstein, 67, had logged 1,160 hours of flight time including 252 hours with multi-engine planes, which is considered "marginal," said Sgt. Eric Wlodarsky of the Sandusky post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Eckstein's Cessna 340 was atwin-engine propeller plane.

Eckstein, his wife Janet Hanna, 66, of Shelby and Mansfield couple John McCarter, 68, and Karen Soprano, 62, died after the plane crashed into the backyard of a home a few miles east of Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport.

Eckstein bought the plane six weeks ago and had five hours of solo experience before he took up any passengers, said longtime friend John Hancock.

"He didn't start flying until later in life, and he just loved it,"Hancock said. "You get to know a lot of people, but (there are) only a few you call friends, and he was one of those."

Jack Stables, director of Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport and a pilot, said Eckstein's experience is considered substantial, but handling a new plane can be a different experience.

"Every aircraft flies different, reacts differently," Stables said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are overseeing the investigation and have indicated the plane had no problems. No distress calls were made, and there was no adverse weather, Wlodarsky said.

"From what the investigators saw yesterday, there was nothing immediately wrong with the aircraft," he said. "We're going to lean toward pilot error unless the NTSB or FAA comes up with a better ruling."

Ottawa County Coroner Dr. Jerome McTague, who was at the crash site Saturday, said all four people died on impact. He expects to perform an autopsy and prepare a toxicology report today on Eckstein and front-seat passenger McCarter.

McTague said he will take tissue samples and send them to the Civil Aeronautical Medical Institute, a federal laboratory in Oklahoma City.

"They check prescription drug levels in any of the two pilots," he said. "It's primarily to see what -- if any -- medication is in their system."

McTague said he is not certain when he will get the results back.

The bodies of Hanna and Soprano -- back-seat passengers -- were released to their families.

Hancock said funeral arrangements have not been set.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory previously said the investigation could take up to a year to complete.