Pilot had low fuel, landing gear problems in crash
The pilot of the plane that crashed Sunday in a vacant lot near Detroit City Airport reported trouble with the aircraft’s landing gear and low fuel, said Andrew Fox, a federal air safety investigator.
“It was a normal flight plan … and the airplane was in communication with air traffic control for practically the whole flight,” Fox said Monday at the site of the crash on Milton Street near Van Dyke on the city’s east side. “As it approached the Detroit metropolitan area, the pilot requested to land… he was given clearance on runway 33. Shortly thereafter, the pilot reported a landing gear anomaly or malfunction.”
The control tower instructed the pilot to fly by the tower so they could check the landing gear and they verified that not all three landing gear were fully extended, Fox said.
The pilot asked to circle the airport to troubleshoot the problem, he said. He also asked where on the airport property he could land, Fox said.
“Shortly after that, the pilot reported having a fuel emergency,” he said. “He didn’t use those words but he said he was either low on fuel or out of fuel.”
The plane plowed through two trees and struck a power line before crashing into the ground about 250 feet away, said Fox, who works out of the federal agency’s Chicago office.
Fox said he and a team are investigating the crash. He arrived at the crash site at about noon, he said.
He declined to provide names of the people in the plane at the time of the crash and only confirmed there were two males and one female in the aircraft. One male and one female were killed.
The survivor is in critical condition, Fox said.
He also said there is no probable cause for the accident or conclusions at this time. The agency’s investigation could take up to a 18 months to complete, according to Fox.
The crash happened about 8 p.m. Sunday night and involved a 1978 single-engine Cessna 210. Fox said the owner to whom the plane is registered purchased the aircraft in April and has an address in Texas. That owner was listed on the FAA's website as Greg Boaz of League City, Texas.
The plane departed out of West Memphis, Arkansas, about 4:42 p.m. eastern standard time with Detroit City Airport as its destination, he said.
Fox said it wasn't clear if the flight had originated from West Memphis, but the pilot requested about 60 gallons of fuel while there. He said he believes a Cessna 210 has capacity for 89 gallons of fuel. The plane is capable of about 4 hours of flight time when fully-fueled, according to Fox.
He also said according to records, the pilot had about 650 hours of flight experience. "I don't know what type of aircraft he had previously flown," Fox said.
Friends of the couple took to social Monday to express sorrow. The Facebook page of the Bacliff Texas-based Lone Star Grill reported the steakhouse would be closed Monday after Boaz, the owner, was killed in a Detroit plane crash with his wife, Julie Boaz. The third passenger was identified in the post as their 17-year-old son.
"We are honoring Greg's memory by re-opening the restaurant and continuing business as usual starting tomorrow (Tuesday, June 26), as he would want us to do," the post read. "We appreciate your continued prayers and support for the Boaz family, Lone Star Grill family ... as we move forward after this tragic event."
The Facebook page for the Kemah, Texas, Palapa Bar, which Greg Boaz founded, read: "We at Palapas have been assured by the family that the business and the legend will go on, because that's what Greg would want. Thank you to everyone for your concern and condolences. Godspeed, Mr. Greg and Ms. Julie...you will be missed. Please continue to pray for, or send positive healing vibes to their families during this difficult time. "