ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary investigation report after a small plane crashed on Interstate 26 near Asheville in December, injuring a flight instructor and student pilot. The plane, a Diamond DA-40, crashed onto the interstate near the Asheville airport in North Carolina. The aircraft took off from Knoxville and was heading back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina when the incident occurred during a cross-country night flight.
According to the NTSB report, the flight instructor and pilot experienced engine trouble, causing the plane to lose power and fill up with smoke. The flight instructor made a forced landing on the interstate, hitting an energized power line before the plane caught fire. The flight instructor suffered minor injuries, while the student pilot was seriously injured.
The wreckage was recovered and examined, revealing that a connecting rod had separated from the engine. The plane, a relatively new Diamond Aircraft DA-40 NG with a total of 95 flight hours, had undergone its 100-hour maintenance inspection a few days before the crash on Dec. 9.
A statement from LIFT Academy, the flight school operating the aircraft, praised the flight instructor and student for their composure during the emergency landing.
Audio recordings between the pilot and Asheville Regional Airport showed the pilot’s calm demeanor as the plane began experiencing engine failure and loss of electric power, ultimately leading to the forced landing on the interstate.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol reported that both occupants of the plane were able to escape before the aircraft caught fire. The FAA confirmed that the plane was a single-engine Diamond DA-40, registered to Diamond Aircraft Sales USA, Inc. and operated by LIFT Training Academy.
The FAA described the crash as an accident, resulting in the total destruction of the aircraft. I-26 was shut down for hours as emergency crews responded, with the road reopening the next day around 9:30 a.m. and one westbound lane remaining closed for pavement repairs.