WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Six eyewitness have reported that a small plane drifted to the left side of the runway after taking off from a Kansas airport, then made a steep left bank before crashing into a flight training facility, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.
The plane had undergone two maintenance test flights without problems before the Thursday crash, said Josh Lindberg, the NTSB's chief investigator on the crash.
A cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder were on the aircraft, but have not yet been recovered. It is not known whether the flight data recorder survived the crash because it was not in a crash-hardened black box.
Investigators have not yet been able to get inside a 30-foot hazard perimeter around the building where most of the wreckage is located due to safety concerns.
The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 200 reported its left engine was out and declared an air emergency before hitting the top of the Flight Safety International Learning Center at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport shortly after takeoff Thursday. The pilot and three people in a flight simulator inside the building were killed.
There are no indications so far that the pilot tried to avoid the building, Lindberg said.
The NTSB has secured the maintenance log books and has been tagging and photographing the wreckage outside the hazard zone, Lindberg said. Investigators hope to have access to the full crash site by Saturday.
Police on Friday confirmed the identity of the pilot as Mark Goldstein, 53, but are not yet releasing the identities of the three other people killed. While the bodies were found Thursday, they have not yet been removed. Three of the victims were from the Wichita area and one was from another country.
Heavy equipment begin demolishing portions of the building late Friday afternoon so firefighters can safely recover the remains of the victims and NTSB investigators can access the rest of the wreckage.
"We don't want to get anybody else hurt," Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said. "We risk a lot to save a lot, but we risk little to save little — and at this point in time it is more important to do this safely."
Five people who were inside building were also injured during the crash, and one remained hospitalized Friday in serious condition.
The plane, which was manufactured in 2000, struck the top of the building and jet fuel ignited an intense fire.
Goldstein was an experienced pilot who had logged 3,000 hours of flight time as of Aug. 4, the NTSB said. He worked as an air traffic controller for 24 years at the Wichita control tower before retiring earlier this year.
One of his close friends, Ron Ryan, said Goldstein was working as a contract pilot and was taking the aircraft to Mena, Arkansas, for painting and interior refurbishing work.
"He is well respected in the pilot community," Ryan said.