Preliminary report released on fatal plane crash


Lake Little

Lake Little



Slim Smith



The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary investigative report on the plane crash that took the life of a Starkville student pilot in Oxford. 


Lake Little, 18, daughter of Starkville Ward 3 Alderman David Little, died after the single-engine Cessna she was piloting crashed at the Ole Miss Golf Course on the afternoon of July 6. 


The report, prepared by NTSB air safety investigator Ed Malinowski, can be found at under "aviation reports" on the "Investigations" tab. 


During a July 8 press conference in Oxford, Malinowski said the investigation would consider three major factors -- pilot, aircraft and weather. 


The preliminary report provided information on all three factors, but did not reach a conclusion on the cause of the crash. That determination will be a part of the final report, which Malinowski said typically takes about a year. 


In the report, two witness accounts described what they saw shortly before the crash: 


"A fixed-base operator at (the Oxford airport) reported that he heard the pilot on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), notifying the air traffic that she was in the area. The witness did not see the airplane at that time. At about (3:15 p.m.), he heard the pilot announce on the CTAF, indicating that the airplane was landing on runway 9. 


"The pilot's voice sounded 'panicked' and she did not finish her sentences. The pilot did not respond to the helicopter in the area asking for her location," it continued. "The witness saw the airplane approach runway with a tailwind. The airplane did not touch the runway ... and started to climb at a steep angle. The witness indicated there were no engine anomalies heard. The airplane headed toward the golf course and then the witness saw the airplane 'go straight down behind the trees.' Smoke was observed about three minutes later above the tree line." 


According to the report, the FAA was then notified. 


The report also provided information from a witness at the golf course: 


"The witness reported that he first heard the airplane on takeoff or very close to the runway. The first visual he had of the plane was above the trees over the 16th hole. The airplane appeared to be 'struggling' to maintain airspeed, was nose up and appeared to be very close to stalling. 


"The witness indicated that the airplane then made a left turn and lost altitude. He thought the airplane was attempting a landing on the 17th fairway. However, the airplane continued with the left turn, struck the ground and slid up to nearby trees." 


Two veteran pilots -- speaking anonymously and for background purposes only -- said based on their review of the report, Little was attempting to land with a quartering tailwind. They said pilots usually attempt to land with a headwind, which helps slow the airplane as it begins to land.


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]



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