WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio -- The audio recordings from the August plane crash that killed four Case Western Reserve University students suggest a series of problems before the Cessna went down.
The recordings capture the interaction between 19-year-old pilot William “Mike” Felten and the controller at Cuyahoga County Airport.
Felten, along with John Hill, 18, Lucas Marcelli, 20, and Abraham Pishevar, 18, were killed in the crash, which happened just after takeoff around 10 p.m. on August 25.
A witness told the National Transportation Safety Board the plane sat running for a half hour on the ramp before Felten radioed the tower for directions.
Felten had trouble hearing the controller, radioing, “I’m sorry, can you read that back? For some reason the radio is kind of being fuzzy right now.”
After the controller gave Felten directions, the controller noticed a problem.
The controller said, “You’re going the wrong way.”
Felten responded, “I’m sorry, what was that?”
The controller repeated, “You’re going to the wrong runway.”
Felten said, “Thank, you, I’m sorry.”
The controller directed Felten back to the proper runway for takeoff.
“We’re going to climb to the east. We’re just doing some sightseeing, and then we’ll be back here in a little bit,” Felten said, before he was cleared for takeoff.
Moments later, Felten radioed about trouble.
“Cuyahoga tower, we are not climbing fast. We’re going to make a left turn if that’s possible immediately to turn around,” he said.
NTSB investigators said the plane crashed on Bishop Road as it made that turn back toward the airport, then burst into flames. Aviation experts said the move affects lift and can be risky so early in flight.
A full NTSB investigation into what caused the plane to go down and whether weight played a role is expected to take a year.
Felten and Marcelli were members of the same fraternity, while Pishevar and Hill had begun the recruitment process.
Attorneys for one of the crash victims filed papers in court indicating they are considering suing the fraternity and the owners of the plane, T&G Flying Club.