NTSB: Skymaster Lost Wing Before Crash

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A Cessna M337B Skymaster that crashed in Avon Park, Fla., last month while on a military training exercise lost its right wing prior to hitting the ground, the NTSB said this week. All three on board, who were civilian pilots, died in the crash. In its preliminary report, the NTSB said the crew was returning to the Avon Park airport, which serves as an auxiliary field for MacDill Air Force Base, at about 9 p.m. local time, after the weather began to deteriorate. Rain and clouds were reported near the accident site. The airplane was originally built in 1967 as an O-2A for the U.S. Air Force. In February, a 337 crashed in New Jersey after a wing separated shortly after takeoff, killing all five on board.

The February crash prompted the FAA to issue an Airworthiness Directive about a wing-modification kit that had been used on that airplane. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told Tampa Bay Online that investigators have not yet determined if the Avon Park aircraft had been modified. At Avon Park, two sections of the right wing were found northwest of the impact crater, the outboard wing tip and aileron about 800 feet away and another section of the wing with part of a flap at a distance of about 330 feet. William Waldock, who teaches crash investigation at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, told Tampa Bay Online the weather didn't seem to be violent enough to cause structural failure. The NTSB investigation is continuing.