CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller says it’s clear from the National Transportation Safety Board final report of a fatal crash at the airport in 2017 that it was out of their hands.
The NTSB report released on Wednesday determined an error by the flight crew aboard a cargo plane led to the accident where two people were killed, the only two people on board.
“I think it speaks for itself,” Keller told MetroNews. “The report said it was a pilot error because of the approach. It’s just very unfortunate but it was out of our control.”
Probable cause stated in the report was “rooted in the decision to conduct a circling approach, contrary to the operator’s standard procedures.”
The report noted the “captain’s excessive descent rate and maneuvering during the approach” led to uncontrolled contact with the ground.
“This was a tragic accident in which two people lost their lives on our airport,” Keller said. “It’s something that we will never forget. I am just thankful for the response of the airport employees that day.”
Keller noted the airport’s maintenance staff was the first on the scene of the crash followed, by the West Virginia Air National Guard and the city’s fire department.
The Air Cargo Carriers flight 1260, a Shorts SD3-30, N334AC, crashed during an attempt to land on the runway 5 and went down the nearby hill.
“It was in heavy brush and trees,” Keller said of the plane. “Our maintenance employees were down there trying to get through the brush and trying to access that aircraft. They did an excellent job and the West Virginia Air National Guard and the fire department were the second on the scene. It was just a struggle to get to the aircraft because it was over the hill.”
Keller was Assistant Airport Director during that time on May 2017. He was recently promoted to director following the retirement of Terry Sayre. Keller said the airport is well prepared for another emergency.
“We have alert procedures in place for any type of emergency landings. We have pre-determined emergency responses so there is no confusion if there is an aircraft emergency,” Keller said.
He added that all responders in Kanawha County and Charleston know what to do if there is an aircraft accident and it showed in a small plane crash just weeks ago at the airport. Keller called that response, where no one was injured, “quick, excellent and decisive.”
Yeager Airport has an aircraft accident exercise drill scheduled in October.