MADEIRA, Ohio — David Sapp did not send a distress call before his small twin-engine plane plummeted out of the sky and into a Rollymeade Avenue home. The plane did not contain a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder that would have logged his final words or actions.
A federal investigator on Thursday said discovering what happened in the moments leading up to the crash, which killed Sapp and rattled the quiet rural street, could take up to a year.
The list of checks ahead of National Transportation Safety Board investigator Todd Gunther is extensive, he said in a news conference.
“We’ll look at the structure of the aircraft to determine if there was any type of in-flight failure,” he said. “(We’ll be) looking at the control system of the aircraft to determine if there was any type of incontinuity or problem with the control system that would affect the pitch or roll of the airplane. Look at the engines of the aircraft to make a determination of if the engine was functioning properly.”
Investigators will also probe Sapp, a 62-year-old resident of Sun City, Arizona, who had departed from Lunken Airport that morning on an aerial photography run. The plane was registered to MARC Inc., a Mississippi-based company that advertises itself as a survey, surveillance and global imaging specialist.
Records of Sapp's flight path show he appeared to be returning to Lunken at the time of the wreck. Witnesses described his descent as a nosedive.
“We’ll look at the pilot’s physiology, his medical history and his performance (using) information provided by the FAA and the company,” Gunther said, adding later: “They’re pulling up his information from his piloting, from the first time he flew as a student all the way to today.”
A preliminary NTSB report will be issued by the end of March, according to Gunther. He expected a final report to arrive a full year after than, followed within three months by a statement of probable cause.
In the meantime, his team will continue to pick through the debris left at what was once the backyard and master bedroom of a family home. The homeowners, none of whom were home when Sapp crashed, have not been allowed back inside.
“They were very happy that their dogs were OK,” Madeira-Indian Hill fire chief Steve Ashbrock said Wednesday.
Police rescued the two canines from the home when the ruined plane caught fire.