About two minutes after taking off, a pilot told the Midway Airport control tower he was having trouble with the left engine of the small cargo plane and requested to return to the airport. He did not make it.
The story of the fatal crash that happened a week ago in the 6500 block of South Knox is detailed in a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board. The report does not speculate on the cause of the crash.
Pilot Eric Howlett, 47, was issued a first class airman medical certificate with a restriction for corrective lenses less than a week before the crash, on Nov. 12, according to the report. He held a commercial pilot certificate, as well as a flight instructor certificate.
He had reported a total flight time of 1,374 hours, with 303 hours flown in the last six months.
Howlett was cleared for takeoff at 2:38 a.m. from Midway en route to the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, according to the report.
Two minutes later, he told the control tower he was having trouble with the left engine and requested to return to the airport, according to the report. He was cleared to land as requested.
The small cargo plane, an Aero Commander 500, then descended into a residential neighborhood about a quarter-mile from where it had departed — crashing through the living room of a brick house. It came to a halt eight inches from an elderly married couple asleep in their bed. They were not injured.
Howlett was found dead in the twisted wreckage, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. He lived in Groveport, Ohio, a town southeast of Columbus, the medical examiner’s office said.
An autopsy found he died of multiple blunt force injuries from the collision, and his death was ruled an accident, the medical examiner’s office said.
The registered owner of the airplane was Central Airlines Inc., based in Fairway, Kansas, according to the report.