NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The National Transportation Safety Board released its latest findings Tuesday (Sept. 3) on the flight that killed pilot Franklin Augustus and FOX 8 anchor Nancy Parker.
On Aug. 16, shortly after 3 p.m., a Pitts S2B aerobatic airplane, N600DF, registered to Drug Fighter LLC, was destroyed following a forced landing shortly after takeoff from the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, the NTSB said.
“Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91,” the report said. The code is used as operating rules for pilots.
Parker was shooting part of the documentary and in the pilot’s aerobatic airplane. The takeoff was filmed. The film shows the airplane’s run up and takeoff.
Initial review of the film shows the airplane lift off the runway and climb out, then turn to the left toward a downwind. Tower personnel reported that the pilot requested a return to the airport via radio shortly after takeoff.
The pilot did not specify the reason for wanting to return. The tower acknowledged the pilot to return to the airport.
“According to witnesses and tower personnel, the airplane was flying on what appeared to be a left downwind toward runway 36, heading south of the airport. The airplane continued flying south and did not return toward the airport,” the report said.
Witnesses observed the airplane in what appeared to be in a steep descent, before impact in an open field about nearly a mile south of the airport.
Investigators said the plane impacted the ground about 45-degrees nose down. A post impact fire consumed most of the airframe.
The accident site was documented, and the wreckage was transported to a secure facility for detailed examinations of the airframe and engine. A review of the airplane's historical maintenance logs was conducted and no deficiencies were noted, the NTSB said.
Parker was 53, and Augustus was 69 at the time of their deaths.
Some recordings of the calls witnessed made to 911 directly after the crash were also released to FOX 8.
Witness: All we saw BOOM then a big mound of dirt came up. I was right there I heard the engine go wrah wrah wrah next thing I heard was BOOM.
Witness: I was inside the boat then all of a sudden I heard a errr and boom and then I came outside and then I seen the plane there and by the time I got to the phone it caught on fire. I don’t know if anybody is in there.
Witness: A plane just crashed out here by the Lakefront Airport. I’m at 72-hundred Jourdan Road. It’s a small plane and it just burst into flames, yeah it’s a small field 73-hundred Jourdan Road. J-O-U-R-D-A-N. Yeah, y’all got to get somebody out here.
911 Dispatcher: Keep everybody back okay. Tell them we have them en route to you guys now.Everybody stay away from the fire.
Witness: The fire department is on the way. They’re on the way. I didn’t see anybody get out. It hit. We saw a big plume of like brown and then it just caught on fire.
A 911 call was also made from the Lakefront Tower. At the time, the FAA controller thought only the pilot was on board.
Lakefront Tower: We had a plane go down south of the airport. We informed our fire and rescue and I believe they are headed out there now. But, I don’t know how far south. It’s outside of our gates and it looks like it’s behind a couple of buildings.
911 Dispatcher: Okay hold one second baby.
911 Dispatcher: Do you know what kind of plane it was?
Lakefront Tower: It was a Pitts biplane.
911 Dispatcher: Pitts biplane?
Lakefront Tower: Yes, it’s an older model plane, single engine, prop. All we know is a single pilot. I don’t believe he had any passengers. We didn’t see anybody with him.
The NTSB report also states a post-impact fire consumed most of the plane’s frame. A review of the plane’s maintenance log was conducted and no other deficiencies were noted.
Officials said the wreckage was brought to a secure facility for detailed examinations of the frame and engine. A final report could take up to two years to complete.