A preliminary report from the National Safety Transportation Safety Board says the engine of a plane that crashed earlier this month apparently lost power before landing in trees near the Limington-Harmon Airport.

Pilot Clarke Tate, 52, of Gray, was killed in the July 12 crash. The antique, single-engine Culver LFA plane went down around 4:45 p.m., minutes after Tate left the Limington airport enroute to Twitchell Airport in Turner.

A witness told investigators that Tate’s plane took off but then stalled and crashed into trees to the left of the 3,000-foot asphalt runway, according to the NTSB report. The witness said the plane did not appear to be as high as it should have been at the end of the runway, according to the report.

Two other witnesses, who live near the departure end of the runway, “stated that they heard a momentary sputter noise, followed by a return to power,” according to the report. The engine sounded normal for five to 10 seconds, then witnesses heard the sound of the impact of the plane crashing, according to the report. The plane came to a stop about 250 feet south of the runway, nose down.

The report said there was a strong odor of fuel at the time, and it noted that the landing gear was extended and had separated partially from the body of the plane upon impact.

The plane’s 85-horsepower engine was retained by the NTSB for further examination. A GPS unit recovered from the cockpit was forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for analysis.

Tate, who worked at Maine Aviation in Portland and flew charter trips in an executive jet, had a total of 5,995 hours of flight experience, including 195 hours in the past six months, according to the NTSB report. He held an airline transport pilot certificate. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration first-class medical certificate was issued on April 30.

Tate bought his plane in September 2013, according to the report. According to a Web page devoted to the Culver Cadet, as the plane is known, about 400 of the wooden planes were built from 1938 to 1942 and fewer than 30 still exist. Tate’s plane was manufactured in 1942, according to FAA records.

The Portland Press Herald has requested information from the Federal Aviation Administration on the incident and the enforcement history of both the plane and the pilot. Those records were not immediately available Monday.


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