Eric Howlett ID'd as pilot killed in crash near Midway, Central Airlines crash history revealed

ABC7 I-Team Investigation

Chuck Goudie Image
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
eric howlett

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team learned the identity of the pilot who was killed in a crash near Midway, as well as details about his flying history and the cargo company he worked for.

PHOTOS: Small plane crashes into SW Side home after Midway takeoff

The pilot of the plane that crashed early Tuesday morning was new on the job. Eric Howlett, a father of five, had only been flying for Central Airlines for a few weeks. He was an experienced pilot, but new to that company and that aircraft. The small, family-owned air freight company from Kansas has had problems with that particular model plane before.

The pilot had just taken off for home when he went down near Midway. Eric Q. Howlett, 47, was from Groveport, Ohio, near Columbus. He was a long-time flight instructor and commercial pilot. A picture of Howlett with his wife and children is the backdrop on the pilot's Facebook page.

According to a former co-worker, Howlett began working just two weeks ago for Central Airways. A statement by the company states that airline executives are "fully cooperating" to determine the cause of the "terrible accident" involving the company's backbone aircraft: the Twin Commander.

According to federal aviation records, the one that went down near Midway was manufactured 50 years ago in 1964.

Other Twin Commanders owned and operated by Central Airways have crashed prior to Tuesday's accident at Midway. A plane crashed in 2010 at Don Scott Airport in Columbus, Ohio, the same airport that Howlett's plane was trying to get to. The pilot survived. Another crashed in 2008 at downtown Wheeler Airport in Kansas City, killing two, and again that same year near Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma, also killing two.

Aero Commander turboprops haven't been produced since 1985, but 2,000 of them were made before that and many are still in service. Over the years there were numerous design problems found that produced structural weakness, wing corrosion and cracking- all of which were addressed by federal regulators.