Tragic coincidence in Milaca plane crash

There is a tragic coincidence surrounding today’s plane crash in Milaca that killed Thomas and Elinor Eberhardt, prominent Aitkin businesspeople. They were on their way to visit his parents in Sour Lake, Texas when their plane crashed.

The Brainerd Dispatch reports …

The Eberhardts moved to Aitkin from Pennsylvania in 1991, bringing with them three businesses that were consolidated under the name TeeMark Corp, located in the Aitkin Industrial Park. The businesses produce foundry ladles, can crushers and lake restoration operations, according to a 1999 Brainerd Dispatch story.

Mr. Eberhardt took over as chairman of MRC Polymers in October 2006, after the company’s founder — his younger brother, Daniel — perished in a plane crash. He was in the identical type of airplane — a Piper Malibu Mirage — that crashed on Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on the 2006 crash said Daniel Eberhardt and a long-time friend died when the plane crashed near an airport, after he violated security zones around the Washington area.

The pilot was attempting to depart from an airport located within the Washington D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Prior to departure, the pilot contacted an Automated Flight Service Station to file an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. During the conversation with the briefer, the pilot was asked if he was aware that he was departing an ADIZ. He responded in the affirmative. During a later conversation with line service personnel the pilot was reminded that he should contact air traffic control via telephone prior to departing in order to obtain a departure clearance. Shortly after departing, the pilot contacted air traffic control via radio and advised that he would like to obtain a clearance. The controller informed the pilot that he was violating the ADIZ, and that he should land at the departure airport immediately. The controller then told the pilot “just turn it off, land, and call us on the phone for your clearance.” The pilot acknowledged the controller, and no further communications were received. Radar data showed that after turning onto a downwind traffic pattern leg, the airplane then turned toward the runway and descended. The final radar target was observed at 300 feet, in the vicinity of the accident site. Witnesses described watching the airplane in the airport traffic pattern, and that it was traveling very fast and closer to the runway on the downwind leg than normal. The airplane entered a steep left descending turn back towards the runway before it disappeared from view, and the sounds of impact were heard. Review of the pilot’s FAA airman file revealed that about 2 1/2 years prior to the accident flight the accident pilot had acted as pilot-in-command of another flight, which operated within the Washington, D.C. ADIZ without following the operating requirements and procedures specified at the time. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of a preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction.

Thomas Eberhardt, who died today, was an instrument-rated private pilot. The Malibu Mirage is equipped to operate in icing conditions. At the time of the crash, the overcast began just 300 feet off the ground, and freezing conditions began around 2,000 feet . But there were no advisories issued by the FAA warning of icing problems in the region today.

Shortly before the plane crashed, Eberhardt reported problems with the flight controls, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.

(h/t: Tim Nelson, MPR)