Preliminary NTSB report details engine trouble, steep dive before deadly Janesville plane crash

JANESVILLE, Wis. — A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says the plane involved in this month’s deadly crash in Janesville had engine troubles and was headed downward at an estimated 80-degree angle prior to the crash.

The report, released Saturday morning, said the plane departed from Appleton International Airport at 6:34 a.m. on Feb. 16 and landed at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville around 7:15 a.m. After having its fuel tanks topped off with 53.5 gallons of 100LL fuel, the plane departed runway 32 at the airport at 9:12 a.m. for Sebastian, Florida.

Officials said the plane, a Velocity Twin experimental amateur built N13VT, was headed to Florida to receive maintenance on its landing gear.

The report did not mention which pilot was corresponding with air traffic control. Tanner Byholm, 25, of Glidden, and Remington Viney, 26, of Kimberly, both died at the scene, according to the Rock County medical examiner.

According to the report, one minute and 16 seconds after its takeoff clearance was issued one of the two pilots on board stated they would like to circle back and land and “work through some engine issues.” Air traffic control acknowledged the request, asked the pilot to report to runway 32 and asked if any assistance was required.

“No, sir, we should be fine,” the pilot replied, according to the report. The NTSB report said no further radio communication was received from the plane.

At 9:17 a.m., five minutes after the plane departed from Janesville, the plane crashed into trees and ended up in a 3-foot deep tributary of the Rock River, about one mile south of the airport. The report said the plane sustained substantial damage to both of its wings, both of its canards, and the fuselage. Both fuel tanks were also breached and, according to the report, investigators noted smelling the plane’s gas, however there was no explosion.

The air traffic controller on duty in Janesville saw the plane south of the airport just prior to impact, the report said. He said he saw the plane circle left when it was just beyond the trees. About halfway through the circle, the nose of the plane “was almost pointed down toward the ground.”

A witness who was outside of his house about a half-mile north of the crash told officials he heard the plane and described the south of the engine as a “loud roar.” The report said he saw the plane about 150 to 200 feet above the trees at an estimated 80-degree nose down pitch attitude, and said engine noises stopped after the plane went behind the trees.

The report also said standard limitations of the Special Flight Permit issued by the Federal Aviation Administration hold the occupancy “limited to the pilot, essential crew required to operate the aircraft and its equipment and person baggage. More limitations were also added on the permit, which stated “gear to remain down during flight, co-pilot authorized,” even though the plane only required one flight crew member, according to the report.

Officials said the plane was equipped with two Continental Titan IOX-370 series engines. Detailed wreckage and engine examinations are pending.

A full NTSB report is expected to take between 12 and 24 months.