January 15, 2010 (CHICAGO) --
Federal air safety investigators say the crew in command of a plane that crashed on final approach to a suburban airport last week had a combined total of more than 6,000 hours in the cockpit of Learjets. The fatal crash came at the end of Stephen Ellis' first flight of the day. They were dispatched from Royal Air Freight's home base in suburban Detroit to pick-up cargo at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling and then fly it to Georgia. A preliminary report released today by the National Transportation Safety Board says the jet was observed to "enter a 90 degree bank right turn, roll inverted, and enter a nose down decent toward terrain."
Three-quarters of the plane's wreckage was submerged in the Des Plaines River. Much of it has now been moved to an indoor location for inspection by air safety experts. The jet's cockpit voice recorder is being analyzed at an NTSB laboratory. It is expected to contain the conversations of the crew in the final minutes of flight. The plane did not have a flight data recorder.
A final NTSB report on the cause of the crash is not expected for nearly a year.