By Glenn Pew, Contributing editor
"I don't give a sh-t about that. I'm taking the airplane." Juan Solis, an aircraft mechanic, told the NTSB the now-deceased Michael Klemm, an ATP certificated pilot with more than 10,500 hours flight time, spoke those words on July 10, 2007, about the accident aircraft (a NASCAR-operated Cessna 310R) prior to his fatal flight, according to a report released Friday by the NTSB. The flight ended approximately 10 minutes after it began when the aircraft, which was, according to witnesses, trailing smoke, impacted two homes, killing Klemm, along with Dr. Bruce Kennedy (the husband of International Speedway Corp. President Lesa France Kennedy). The death toll on the ground added three others -- including an infant and a four-year-old girl. Klemm's comments are associated with his knowledge of a problem with the aircraft's radar, though the extent of that knowledge remains uncertain.
The NTSB found no witnesses who could remember seeing either Klemm or Kennedy (also a pilot who held a commercial rating) reviewing the discrepancy log prior to the flight. Records included in the NTSB's report show the plane's maintenance discrepancy log (squawk) sheet was recovered at the accident site and included a notation written by the pilot of the previous day's flight who described a "smell of electrical components burning" following failure of the aircraft's weather radar display. The notation indicated the smell "went away" after the radar's circuit breaker was pulled. According to the NTSB, "no corrective action was annotated next to the discrepancy write-up, and no evidence cite that corrective action was taken prior to the mishap flight." NASCAR submitted to the NTSB its own report, which concludes that PVC wiring insulation deteriorates with age and that evidence found in the crash suggests the aircraft's radio wiring may have been the initial source of ignition for an onboard fire.