The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the Nov. 1 aircraft accident that left three persons dead and another in serious condition at the Houston County Airport.

According to the report, at approximately 3:15 in the afternoon the airplane impacted a soybean field about 590 feet northeast of the airport, which lies to the south of Caledonia. There were no witnesses, but a local resident later discovered the wreckage and alerted authorities.

Authorities spoke with the survivor following the crash, but the report does not state whether the incident occurred during landing or takeoff. The pilot was among those killed.

The Piper PA 23-250 was registered to Garlam Aviation of Troy, Michigan. It left the Oakland/Troy Airport at about 11 a.m. (CDT). According to air traffic control communications and radar data, the aircraft then flew for approximately three hours en route to Caledonia. Prior to reaching KCHU (the Houston County Airport), the private rated pilot was cleared for GPS-A approach. He cancelled IFR (instrument flight rule) clearance at about 2:05. Following that action, there was no distress call from the flier.

The report states: "The wreckage path consisted of several ground scars and airplane pieces extended approximately 100 feet from the main wreckage on a 260 degree heading. The first impact point was a ground scar, which contained remains of a green navigation light lens. From the first impact point, about 24 feet from the green lens fragments, the ground scar contained several "cuts"; the next major ground scar contained the airplane's nose baggage door and fragmented pieces of windshield. The ground scars and wreckage is consistent with a right wing airplane down impact followed by the right engine and fuselage impact. The airplane came to rest in an upright position, turned about a 180-degree and facing the first impact point.

The pilot had filed the instrument flight plan according to federal regulations for a cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed when the airplane left Michigan.

After investigators completed their initial documentation of the site, the wreckage was recovered for further study.

Local pilot Eric Benson operates a business at the Houston County Airport. Contacted by The Herald, he stated that he once owned an aircraft of the same make and model as the one which crashed. The twin-engine Piper Aztec has six seats, he said. A common type of airplane, recent data indicate that there are 1,555 registered with the FAA.

"It's one of the most forgiving airplanes out there," Benson stated.

A "right wing down impact" could be consistent with some sort of stalling, he noted, but the cause of the accident is still unknown. The final NTSB report will probably not be available for several months.

"As a pilot, you practice departure stalls and takeoff stalls," Benson added.