WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report following the crash of a twin-engine plane in the Boston Mountains near Fayetteville on May 17.
The pilot, Johnny Morgan, a 76-year-old man from Oxford, Mississippi who served as a Mississippi state senator, was the sole occupant of the aircraft and died in the crash.
According to NTSB's report, the Beech E-90 airplane departed from the University-Oxford Airport (UOX) in Oxford, Mississippi at about 11:27 a.m. on May 17. It proceeded on a direct course toward the Drake Field Airport in Fayetteville, Arkansas (FYV).
NTSB stated that Morgan had contacted an avionics repair facility at Drake Field Airport to discuss autopilot issues he was having with the plane. He told the avionics technician that when he engaged in "heading hold mode", the autopilot would place the plane into a steep left bank.
Morgan was then asked to perform ground checks of the autopilot system, which had no discrepancies noted, according to NTSB. After performing the checks, the technician told Morgan to conduct a maintenance flight in visual flight rules conditions to test the autopilot system.
The NTSB report stated that during the maintenance flight, Morgan noted that the airplane still entered a left roll and he disengaged the autopilot once a 40-degree bank was reached. The technician then advised Morgan that he would need to bring the airplane in for service and not utilize autopilot during the flight. Morgan planned to fly the airplane to FYV and leave it at the avionics facility for maintenance, according to the report.
After departing UOX, NTSB states that the plane climbed to 16,000 feet and remained there until 12:21 p.m. when a descent was initiated. The decline continued to 8,000 feet when the airplane leveled briefly before descending again. The airplane continued on a straight heading toward FYV until 12:30 when the airplane made a turn to the left at about 6,100 feet, the report stated.
According to the NTSB, the plane continued descending before making an initial approach for the runway to FYV. Before making the final approach, the plane turned to the right and then slightly left, placing it on a 45-degree intercept.
The report stated that during that time, the airplane descended to about 3,525 feet, then climbed back up to 3,950 feet. When it had reached 3,950 feet it began a right turn, presumably to intercept the inbound approach course, but the airplane continued in the right turn and descended, the NTSB noted in the report.
The aircraft was destroyed when it crashed on private property between Carpenter Road and Ferry Road in steep, rugged terrain at 12:37 p.m., according to officials with NTSB and Washington County Sheriff's Office (WSCO).
A few hours later, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the wreckage of a missing twin-engine plane was found at 3:46 p.m. near Fayetteville.
According to WCSO Lt. Rick Jensen, a call had come in from someone who thought they heard a plane sputter and then a loud bang which sent authorities all over the area.
Ground units, central EMS, emergency management, state police and multiple fire departments were on scene to assist.
The pilot of the aircraft and former Mississippi State Senator Johnny Morgan is described by the city of Oxford's mayor as a man who "loved his hometown and was incredibly generous without ever wanting credit. He was generous with his time, his heart, and his money ... He was loved and appreciated and will be dearly missed."
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