A pilot and two passengers lost their lives when the small plane they were flying from Florida to Virginia crashed just short of a runway at Norfolk International Airport in the predawn hours of March 4, 2015. The single-engine Mooney M20F four-seater was due into the corporate airfield in Suffolk, VA, just after 3:30 am, but it redirected to Norfolk because of heavy fog and limited visibility. The deceased crash victims have been identified as a psychologist who had lived in Norfolk and two of his friends from New York. The plane belonged to another friend of the group who was not aboard.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, investigators from the state police and the National Transportation Board could not immediately determine why the fatal accident occurred and are "looking at the [foggy] weather, the condition of the aircraft and the experience of the pilot." The aircraft did not have a voice-recording black box or other performance-tracking and mechanical diagnostic equipment standard in larger commercial planes, so recreating the last hour of the flight from communications with ground personnel and analysis of the wreckage found in Norfolk's Botanical Gardens will be needed. Compiling a preliminary NTSB report may take as long as two weeks.
The owner of the crashed plane spoke with television station WAVY-TV 10, saying he also could not point to a definitive reason why the aircraft went down. He noted that he and the pilot who died had performed maintenance and flight testing on the plane in mid-February. He also praised the pilot's skill and noted that runnning out of fuel seemed unlikely because the plane's tanks had capacity for six hours of flight time and the trip from Florida lasted just over four hours.
The NTSB often takes a year or longer to issue final reports on plane crashes that result in deaths. One reason for this is that airplanes are such complex machines that even something as seemingly inconsequential as a single stripped screw in a wing assembly or a pinhole in a fuel line can create deadly dangers. Then, if improper maintenance or defective equipment is identified as the primary cause of a plane crash, holding a negligent individual or company accountable can take as long as a decade.
My Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I hope for the sake of the Norfolk plane crash victims' families that the investigation and any insurance matters reach conclusions much faster than usual. We also send the victims' spouses, children, siblings and friends our deepest condolences.