PORTLAND, Maine — The propeller wasn’t spinning when a small plane crashed, killing two men, moments after taking off from the Portland International Jetport, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said Monday.
Mark Haskell, 42, of Brunswick was undergoing a flight review necessary to maintain his pilot certification and had a flight instructor with him when the Yak-52 apparently lost power on Saturday, wobbled and crashed in South Portland, said Butch Wilson, an Atlanta-based NTSB safety investigator.
The plane went down nose first and the cockpit caught fire, Wilson said. Killed were Haskell, the plane’s owner, and Thomas Casagrande, 66, of Portland, a retired military test pilot, officials said.
It was clear that the wooden propeller wasn’t spinning by the way it broke upon impact a short distance away from the runway and a few blocks from the Maine Mall, Wilson said.
“We’re going to start with the engine and work our way back,” Wilson said of his investigation. He planned to begin disassembling the wrecked plane on Tuesday.
Before the crash, Haskell had completed some practice landings — known as touch-and-go landings — in his distinctive Soviet training airplane while completing his biannual flight review, Wilson said.
Haskell then taxied off the runway and completed some checks before seeking permission to take off again, Wilson said. The pilot indicated he wanted to fly to 3,000 feet to complete some in-flight system checks, but the radar indicated the plane never made it higher than 300 feet, he said.
Haskell was an FAA controller at the airport, and one of his fellow controllers noticed that there was a problem and asked if he needed to return to the airport, Wilson said.
The pilot responded that he needed to return to the airport but the plane stalled during a shallow turn and tumbled from the sky, crashing at 3:27 p.m. on Western Avenue, a busy road lined with retail stores, offices and a pair of semiconductor manufacturing plants. No one was hurt on the ground.