By Kiet Do


PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — Federal investigators were at the scene of a deadly plane crash in Palo Alto Wednesday, combing through evidence to find out what went wrong.

The plane was part of a charity organization, Angel Flight West, which was flying a sick teenager and her mother from Redding to a medical appointment at Stanford Children’s Hospital.

They teen and her mother survived, but the volunteer pilot did not.

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board granted media crews rare, up close access to the wreckage, and from our vantage point just feet away, you can see how the force of the impact ejected the engine and the instrument panel; crumpled the nose, the left wing, and the body.

NTSB investigator Mike Huhn examined the instruments looking for clues as to what the pilot – now identified as W. John Spencer – was doing just before it ran into trouble.

The NTSB says pilots are required to do their homework and familiarize themselves with airports where they’re taking off from and where they’re landing. But it is not unusual to ask for directions to find smaller airports in densely populated urban areas.)

That’s exactly what happened yesterday. A recording of the radio communications with the control tower showed Spencer needed help finding the runway.

Reporter: “Anything there raise a red flag about what he was asking in terms of getting vectored in?”

Huhn: “Just, I don’t know if he’s been into this airport before, but it was apparent from what I read, again from an unofficial transcript, from what I read he was a bit unfamiliar with the airport. But that’s not that unusual.”

Spencer crashed apparently while performing a go-around, where the plane makes a landing attempt, touches the ground, and then climbs back out for another attempt.

“I’m a pilot myself and believe it or not it’s hard to find the airport sometimes,” said Huhn. “The airport itself is a 2,400-foot runway, a little bit on the short side, but not particularly difficult.”

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