Preliminary Report Out On Gaithersburg Plane Crash 

A new report shares preliminary findings about a small plane crash last month in Gaithersburg.

The report, released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), shows the pilot “continued established headings as the controller repeatedly requested that the pilot turn to a different heading.”

NTSB is conducting an investigation into the crash. The final report can take one to two years to be completed, a NTSB spokesperson previously told MyMCM.The probable cause of the crash and any contributing factors will be part of that report. 

On Nov. 27, a small plane with two occupants crashed into power lines by Rothbury Drive and Goshen Road in Gaithersburg. The occupants were rescued around midnight, hours after the crash occurred, and the plane was lowered just before 4 a.m. Fire/rescue officials said the plane struck power lines in one tower, then collided and became embedded in a second tower. 

Maryland State Police previously identified the pilot as Patrick Merkle, 66, of Washington, D.C. and the passenger as Janet Williams, 66, of Marrero, Louisiana.  

The crash occurred on a return flight to Montgomery County Airpark from New York, per the report.

According to the report, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic communication showed the pilot was advised to expect a certain “approach procedure” at Montgomery County Airpark, “but the pilot expressed a preference” for a separate approach procedure.

Merkle had a private pilot certificate, per the report.

The controller cleared the pilot to fly “approximately southwest and ahead of the airplane’s position, but instead, the airplane turned about 100° to its right.”

“The controller provided numerous heading changes and direct clearances to waypoints on the RNAV (GPS) RWY 14 approach procedure; however, the pilot made a series of left and right turns, near course reversals, or continued established headings as the controller repeatedly requested that the pilot turn to a different heading,” the report reads.

The report claims that at one point, the pilot told the controller he entered “information incorrectly and was making the correction.”

The report referenced a 911 call in which the pilot said, “I got down a little lower than I should have… I thought I was closer to the airport than I was…We could see the ground, but we couldn’t see in front.”

“Dark night instrument meteorological conditions” were in the airpark area at the time, per the report.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) Chief Scott Goldstein previously said there was a cloud layer that day, which changed throughout the day and lowered.

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