Flight records detail moments before fatal plane crash in Thomson

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THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF) — 911 calls are shedding light on the search for the plane that crashed while flying from Lubbock, Texas to Thomson, Georgia.

The first call was made at 6:25 a.m. Tuesday by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. An airman tells McDuffie County Dispatch a Dassault aircraft was scheduled to land at 5:44 a.m. However, the Atlanta Air Traffic Control Center was unable to make contact with the pilots after it was supposed to land.

A dispatcher then sent a deputy to the Thomson-McDuffie County Regional Airport to look for the plane.

The airman called dispatch a second time at 6:38 a.m.

“I just talked to the [Thomson-McDuffie County Regional] airport,” he said. “They said the aircraft is not there. I was wondering if you’re able to have them search the surrounding areas to see if they can locate the aircraft. We’re unsure where it’s located at this point. There are no airfields around it that can handle that aircraft. Based on its flight plane coming in, it doesn’t look very good.”

At 6:41 a.m., a representative from the FAA called dispatchers, telling them radar showed the plane stopped before the airport near Wrightsboro Road. That is the area where the plane was discovered shortly later.

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Investigators with the NTSB have been on scene trying to piece together what happened.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and flight instructor with 40 years of aviation experience. After reviewing flight records, Katz suggests problems with the aircraft may have begun as the pilots flew over the Atlanta area.

“The airplane is starting to descend, and it does so very abruptly, very rapidly,” Katz explains. “This tells me there could have been an engine problem, or it was in severe turbulence associated with this weather.”

According to the flight log, the plane began rapidly descending at 5:17 a.m. Just one minute later, it fell by more than 4,000 feet per minute.

“That’s way too fast for any airplane of that size to be descending or climbing normally. The normal range would be around 2,000 to 2,5000 feet a minute.”

The plane is believed to have crashed 25 minutes later, but it did not catch fire.

“The fact that the airplane crashed short of the runway in weather that was not significant by the time it got to Thomson, and there was no fire, tells me that the airplane ran out of fuel.”

While NTSB investigators look over every inch of the plane and its records, two families are mourning. Pilots Claude Duschesne and Raymond Bachman were killed. Bachman’s relative, Rosanna Marlowe, tells NewsChannel 6 the pilots flew together often.

Marlowe says Bachman’s “passion for airplanes started when he was four-years-old.” He earned his pilot’s license when he was 16. Bachman leaves behind a wife of 54 years, two children and one grandson, who he enjoyed building and flying remote-controlled airplanes with. Marlowe says “he will be remembered as a hard-working, conscientious, loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and friend.”

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