A pilot who saw the Cessna plane on the runway at the Westchester County Airport last weekend just before it crashed, killing four people, said it sounded like the plane may have had some mechanical trouble, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
An unidentified pilot said that on June 18 he saw Keith Weiner, who piloted the plane that crashed, perform “about eight engine run-ups at the end of runway prior to departure,” said the report. The pilot said the engine made a “chugga-chugga” sound during the first few run-ups then smoothed out during the final two or three run-ups prior to departure.
The man told the NTSB that said it sounded like Weiner was “trying to clean the spark plugs” or having trouble with the magnetos firing properly.
Weiner made an emergency radio call to air traffic control just after takeoff and said he needed to return to the airport, according to the report. That was the last recognizable communication from Weiner.
Manhattan residents Weiner, 63, his wife, Lisa, 51, their 14-year-old daughter Isabel, and her friend Lucy Walsh, also 14, died in the crash.
The NTSB has not announced the definitive cause of the accident. Ralph Hicks, a senior air safety investigator at the NTSB, said in a press briefing last weekend that the aircraft collided with trees when it was about 50 feet above the ground and burst into flames upon impact, with the resulting fire consuming the fuselage and cockpit.
The Montauk-bound flight left the Westchester County Airport at around 1 p.m. Saturday and crashed just a mile from the airport in Armonk.
Weiner owned an art gallery in Piermont called Gallerie Cavu, its name drawn from an aviation term meaning fair weather. Weiner’s parents, who live in Pearl River, helped him operate the shop. His father, William Weiner, told the Daily News that his son was an experienced flight instructor.