NTSB releases preliminary findings on plane crash that killed Aiken man

April 4, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its preliminary report on the plane crash that killed Gary Huttleston of Aiken.

The four-page report, issued Monday, paints a more detailed picture of the crash while still echoing what emergency management officials and first responders had to say after Huttleston’s plane initially went missing.

Huttleston, piloting a 1965 Mooney M20C single-engine plane, took off from Knoxville Downtown Island Airport in Tennessee on March 14 just before 5:30 p.m., according to the NTSB report.

Huttleston, 59, was the only person on board and was headed to Aiken Regional Airport. Huttleston, according to Federal Aviation Administration information, had been briefed on the weather the night before the flight.

After takeoff, Huttleston’s plane was seen climbing and bound for Aiken. Later in the flight, Huttleston told air traffic control he “had ‘lost his attitude indicator’” and couldn’t “maintain course and attitude,” according to the NTSB. Similar information was included in a preliminary FAA report.

An attitude indicator is a flight tool depicting the sky and ground. Pilots use it to distinguish the horizon line.

Contact with Huttleston and the plane was lost “shortly after” he reported struggling, according to the NTSB. The FAA said contact was lost around 6:20 p.m. when the plane was about 17 miles south of Macon County Airport in Franklin, North Carolina.

Macon County (North Carolina) Emergency Services Director Warren Cabe last month said Huttleston’s plane “disappeared from the radar,” adding there were “indications” of “problems” during the flight.

Huttleston ultimately crashed in south Jackson County, North Carolina, a rugged swath that the NTSB described as “mountainous” and “forested.” Huttleston was found dead March 15, according to the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad. Weather hampered the search for Huttleston, officials said.

The plane’s debris field was 50 feet in circumference, according to the April 1 report. Treetops near the crash were “damaged,” and “various parts of the airplane” were littered throughout, per the same information.

The plane’s cabin was crushed, as were controls and instruments in the cockpit. The throttle, the report reads, was mashed into the “full forward” position.

The plane – described as destroyed by both the NTSB and the FAA – was kept for further investigation.

Huttleston held a commercial pilot certificate and reported almost 1,958 total flight hours, according to the NTSB.