ATLANTA (AP) — A North Carolina pilot’s conversation with a control tower was calm before the airplane slammed into a metro Atlanta freeway, killing all four onboard.
The Federal Aviation Administration released the five-minute audio Thursday of pilot Greg Byrd III’s pre-flight routine before he said he was struggling to gain altitude and crashed May 8. The fiery crash came about two minutes after departure from DeKalb Peachtree Airport shortly after 10 a.m.
“I’m having some trouble climbing here,” Byrd said.
Shortly afterward, Byrd tells the control tower that the plane is going down. Someone from the control tower asks Byrd to repeat himself.
After a pause, Byrd responds saying “We’re going to be down here in the intersection.”
There was no more communication heard between Byrd and the tower. About a minute later, the tower responded to someone confirming the crash saying “Yes, he just crashed.”
Byrd, 53, of Asheville, North Carolina, his sons Christopher Byrd, 27, and Phillip Byrd, 26, and Christopher’s fiancee, Jackie Kulzer, 27, of metro Atlanta, all died in the crash.
Scars across the pavement of four lanes of busy Interstate 285 were found by investigators. They ended at a concrete highway divider, where the wreckage of the Piper PA-32 was found. The plane had stopped at the airport just north of Atlanta and was heading to a graduation ceremony in Oxford, Mississippi, when it crashed, authorities have said.
The plane grazed the hood of a semitrailer on the freeway — one of Georgia’s busiest stretches of highway — but no one on the ground was seriously hurt.
A final report on the cause of the plane crash is not expected for several months.