Pilot flying from Lunken Airport in Cincinnati killed in Georgia crash

Posted at 9:33 AM, Mar 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-26 18:01:58-04

CINCINNATI -- A pilot flying from Lunken Airport to Atlanta died Friday night in a fiery crash that also set a house ablaze.

The Cessna Citation I crashed about 7:20 p.m. about 3 miles northeast of Cobb County International Airport, according to FAA spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt.

 Robert George Westlake, 78, was the pilot, Cobb County Police said Sunday. He was the only known victim.

The aircraft landed in Cincinnati on Thursday before departing for Georgia on Friday, according to Lunken Airport manager Fred Anderton.

PHOTOS: Latest images from the crash scene

Westlake told air traffic controllers he was having an issue with the autopilot feature shortly before the crash, federal investigators said at a briefing Saturday. They also said they'd recovered a bright orange data recorder, often referred to as a "black box."

The plane, registered to a Georgia company, was on its way to Fulton County Airport when it crashed next to a house and exploded, Cobb County Fire Department spokeswoman Denell Boyd told reporters. The house next door caught on fire from the radiant heat and was fully engulfed when the department arrived on the scene, she said.

Everyone in both houses got out safely. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Tullan Avard, a homeowner in Kennesaw's Chastain Lakes subdivision, said she was sitting outside with a neighbor when they saw the plane fly over.

"It was flying normally, when all of a sudden it starts spiraling down in the distance," she said. "I thought I was imagining it, but all of a sudden I heard a huge boom and saw a huge plume of smoke coming up."