An American Airlines pilot and his adult son were killed Thursday night when their small plane crashed near the Festus Memorial Airport in Missouri after experiencing what is believed to be electrical issues. Authorities are yet to release the names of the father, who was in his mid-50s, and his son, who was in his early 20s.
Festus Memorial Airport Vice President Mike Bippen told KMOV4 that the pilot was very experienced.
"With him being an American Airlines pilot, I mean he's probably got more hours than all of us put together," said Bippen. Like most small airports, Festus Memorial Airport isn’t staffed 24-hours a day and the lights are turned off at night. Pilots can remotely turn them on by clicking the microphone of their radio six times. But the pilot of the Cessna couldn’t do that because of the mechanical problems.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the father and son were returning with a Cessna 150 they had purchased in New York which the son planned to use as he pursued a pilot’s license. At some point in the flight, the plane lost all electrical power.
According to the report, it's not clear if the father had retired or still flew with American Airlines. The company has not confirmed that the pilot killed in Thursday's crash was an employee as of yet.
According to officials, the aircraft started having issues around 9 or 10 pm local time as the pilot was coming in to land. It's believed that the father was experiencing electrical issues preventing him from using his radio or accessing the runway lights, which the pilot turns on from the aircraft.
"If he had lost his whole electrical system he wouldn't be able to see inside the cockpit at night. He wouldn't be able to see what his airspeed is, his elevation, you know the heading,” said Bippen.
Officials also confirmed that the pilot was in communication with his fiance, and moments before the crash, he sent her a text asking if she could come down and light the runway at Festus with flashlights. Without the runway lights on, the pilot would not be able to see where to land.
Bippen said he believes the pilot tried to land once, but had issues. He said the pilot tried to 'come around' and that's when the plane crashed in a heavily wooded area, about 300 yards from the runway.
He said he believes the plane went down around 10.30 pm. Rescuers tried to locate the aircraft on Thursday night but couldn't find it. It was found early Friday morning near a creek, according to video from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which you can view below: