By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
All five people on board a Socata TBM-700 were killed Tuesday morning after the single-engine turboprop apparently lost a wing in flight, then spiraled to a crash in the median of busy Interstate 287 in New Jersey and burned. Nobody on the ground was hurt. The airplane had taken off from Teterboro just 14 minutes earlier, about 9:50 a.m., headed for Atlanta, the NTSB said on Tuesday afternoon. The pilot and ATC discussed reports of icing in the area. A chunk of the missing wing was found about a quarter-mile from the wreckage, lodged in a tree. The airplane belonged to Jeffrey Buckalew, 45, a New York investment banker, who was the pilot. Also on board were Buckalew's wife and two children, a co-worker, and a dog.
Tuesday afternoon, NTSB investigators said Buckalew had requested clearance to a higher altitude shortly before the airplane dropped off radar. Earlier, Buckalew had a seven-second conversation with a controller, but the NTSB said it wasn't clear if he was reporting that he had encountered icing or was asking about the location of possible icing conditions. On ATC recordings, a controller is heard telling Buckalew about "moderate rime" up to 17,000 feet, according to The Associated Press. "We'll let you know what happens when we get in there," the pilot says. "If we can go straight through it, that's no problem for us." One witness told the AP the airplane seemed to be out of control. "It was like the plane was doing tricks or something, twirling and flipping," said Chris Covello, of Rockaway Township, N.J. "It started going straight down. I thought any second they were going to pull up. But then the wing came off and they went straight down." Covello said he saw the descent from the car dealership where he works.