RACINE COUNTY — The pilot who crash-landed on Interstate 94 in October was flying in weather that left other aviators wondering what he was doing, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Pilot Keith George overshot the first part of the runway at Yorkville’s Sylvania Airport, continuing across a ditch and onto the Interstate, according to files from the FAA’s recently completed investigation into the accident.
While the FAA’s investigation into the accident has been completed, a decision on possible enforcement is currently under review by the administration’s legal department, according to spokesman Tony Molinaro.
George, a pilot for Skydive Midwest, reportedly told investigators that on Oct. 22 he and his girlfriend were coming back from Jackson County Airport in Jackson, Mich., where they had flown to consider purchasing a dog, according to FAA records.
The Beech B90 airplane that they had been flying requires weather conditions that are clear enough for the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
Weather on the night of the accident, however, is described in the FAA report as poor enough to require instruments to fly in.
George reportedly told an investigator that the weather was clear enough when the plane left Jackson and remained above minimum requirements during the entire flight.
Weather reports were not available from Sylvania Airport, but reports from the three nearest airports all reported conditions of fog and drizzle below the minimum requirement, according to FAA records.
Several witnesses in the area during the time of the accident reported to the FAA that conditions were not above those minimum standards, including a captain from American Airlines who was flying from New York to Chicago at the time and remembered a brief discussion with a co-pilot about why a plane like George’s would be flying through the weather conditions at the time.
Another witness, who described himself as a professional aviator, remembers telling his wife, “I can’t believe he tried to land in this weather.”
During the approach, George told the FAA he descended through a hole in the clouds that developed and then located Sylvania Airport before circling back around for landing.
George wrote in his statement to the FAA, dated the same day as the accident, that “approach and touchdown were normal maybe a little long but within the first third of the runway.”
In the interview with the FAA investigator, George reportedly said that he had learned about a claim made by a member of a local flying club that the plane touched down on the back fourth of the runway, but it was false and made in an attempt to “run him off the airport.”
Skydive Midwest is located at 13851 56th Road at Sylvania Airport.
George could not be reached for comment on Friday, but a Skydive Midwest employee was able to confirm that he was still with the company.
After landing, George reportedly told the investigator that both propellers would not go into reverse and the brakes were applied but were ineffective. His passenger was injured, the FAA reported.
According to the FAA, the brake system could not be checked because the landing gear was torn off the plane during the accident and the propellers were checked and no discrepancies were noted.
George then reportedly said he began steering left to increase the distance before crossing the west frontage road and onto the Interstate, where the plane eventually came to a stop.