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Report: Plane that crashed at Johnson County Executive Airport not operating under flight plan

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Posted at 9:09 PM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 22:09:13-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A single-engine plane that crashed on New Year’s Eve, killing two people, was not operating under a flight plan, according to a preliminary report.

The report, released by the National Transportation Safety Board, stated that the flight originated at Johnson County Executive Airport in Olathe, Kansas, and was heading to North Little Rock Municipal Airport in Arkansas.

A witness reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that a couple from Little Rock, Arkansas, “flew up to view a new Piper airplane that was for sale,” according to the NTSB report.

“On initial roll out, nothing out of the ordinary was noticed,” the report stated. “During power-up all sounded and looked normal. However, the airplane rotated at a much slower speed than would be expected and immediately started to climb at a very sharp departure angle.”

As the Mooney M20S aircraft gained altitude, “its airspeed bled off,” causing the left wing to stall. This resulted in the plane veering in that direction and continuing on that trajectory “straight into the ground just east of the runway.”

First responders extinguished a fire that began after the crash.

The preliminary report stated that the top of the craft’s fuselage was “consumed by fire between the instrument panel to just forward of the empennage.” Additionally, its lower section “was discolored, deformed, and melted.”

The aircraft’s propeller had an “S”-shape bend and “leading edge nicks,” the report stated, while the “leading edge” of the left wing was discolored, melted and deformed.

Additionally, a right main landing gear was “partially extended,” and the plane’s instrument panel sustained impact and thermal damage.

No odd sounds were noted during the flight, and video at the crash site supported the witness’s account.

The pilot, 48-year-old Jonathan J. Vannatta, and a co-owner bought the plane in November 2019, according to the report, and Vannatta had logged 180 hours of flight time. Vannatta had a FAA private pilot certificate and a second-class medical certificate through the FAA.

Vannatta was an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, but was not on assignment at the time of the crash.