The two men killed in a plane crash Wednesday in Arundel were top leaders of a major construction company in Freeport, Maine, the company has said.
Eldon Morrison, 81, of Yarmouth, Maine, was piloting the company-owned plane that crashed north of Sam's Road shortly before 2 p.m. Morrison was the founder and CEO of CPM Constructors. Morrison's passenger, Paul Koziell, 55, of Scarborough, Maine, was CPM's president.
The company's statement Thursday mourned the losses, and said it's working to support grieving staff while taking steps to make sure public works projects in Maine and New Hampshire continue as planned.
"This is a family business, and Eldon and Paul's legacy will continue to guide us," said Chief Financial Officer Tim Ouellette, who is also a family owner. "We will be forever grateful for their leadership that built the foundation for CPM Constructors in Northern New England."
The plane, a 1991 Beechcraft A36 single-engine aircraft, was owned by CPM, according to FAA records.
The men had left Biddeford Municipal Airport for Presque Isle around 7:42 a.m., landed about 9:13 a.m., and spent about three hours on the ground before taking off to head home at 12:19 p.m., according to flight data recorded by flightaware.com.
The cause of the crash will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, and determining what happened could take months.
The plane was making an "instrument approach," meaning Morrison was relying more on the plane's sensors and navigation equipment than on his ability to see, according to a preliminary FAA crash assessment. Morrison's airspeed in the last two minutes of flight was around 60 knots, or roughly 69 to 70 mph, according to flightaware.com.
Investigators will likely examine whether the plane was flying too slowly and may have stalled, meaning the air rushing over the wings did not provide enough lift to keep it aloft. Stall speed changes depending on the weight of the plane, whether it's traveling in a banked turn, and whether its flaps were up or down — variables the NTSB will attempt to determine in its investigation.
Another factor may be the weather. At the time of the crash, the cloud ceiling was between roughly 700 feet and 1,000 feet, with light rain and visibility of between 2 to 4 miles, said meteorologist Maura Casey of the National Weather Service station in Gray. By comparison, on a clear day, visibility is typically 10 miles, Casey said.
Instrument flying rules were in place at the time, meaning pilots must be certified to fly in low-visibility conditions, Casey said. FAA records show Morrison had that certification.
NTSB investigators are also likely to scrutinize the condition of the aircraft and flight plan that day. They are also expected to examine how Morrison was operating the plane before it crashed, although it's unclear if the plane was equipped with a data-recording device that might help them piece together what happened.
Another aspect of the investigation will be Morrison's medical history. Every pilot must receive medical clearance to fly. There are two systems in place for private pilots to attain a doctor's approval.
For years, the FAA has required every pilot to see an agency-approved doctor every two years to sign off that a pilot meets criteria spelled out in a 565-page standards manual. In 2016, that system changed.
After years of lobbying by private pilot groups, the FAA adopted a less stringent medical clearance process called Basic Med, which requires pilots to prove that they have cleared the more stringent medical examination at least once since 2006, possess a valid driver's license and undergo a medical examination by any state-licensed doctor, who uses a simplified checklist to ensure a pilot is healthy enough to pilot an airplane.
The Basic Med approval allows pilots to fly planes no heavier than 6,000 pounds and with no more than five passengers. Airline pilots must still undergo more stringent and frequent medical checks.
The more basic medical clearance is good for four years, and requires pilots to police their own health status and determine if they're safe to fly in between medical exams. An industry group that lobbied for the change says there are more than 66,000 general aviation pilots who have switched to the Basic Med certification regimen since it came into effect in 2017, according to a July 2021 report by the group.
Morrison had one of the more rigorous medical exams in November 2021, but instead of being cleared for two years, his approval was shortened to 12 months. The license database does not provide a reason. FAA records show Morrison completed the simplified physical in October 2020 and passed the online self-assessment in August 2021.
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