The Salair cargo plane that crashed as it approached Spokane International Airport had enough fuel to make it to the runway, a federal investigator said Friday.
The Convair 440 was experiencing engine and fuel problems, but wasn’t out of fuel, Jeff Guzzetti of the National Transportation Safety Board said.
“It’s too early to shoot from the hip and say what caused this crash,” he said.
Investigators from the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration spent Friday examining the wreckage, checking maintenance records and interviewing the two-man crew that walked away from the crash.
The check of maintenance records was routine and had not yet turned up any “unresolved discrepancies,” Guzzetti said.
Salair has had two other crashes in the last two years, Guzzetti said. A DC-3 crashed on takeoff in Spokane in 1994 and a Convair 440 crashed last July in the Dominican Republic.
He declined to offer an opinion on the company’s safety record.
A check of the fuel tanks show the plane had at least 125 gallons in the right wing tanks. It may have had more fuel in the left wing, which ripped apart when the plane skidded into an empty field near Hayford and Geiger roads.
The stories of the crew match each other and the tapes of conversations with the Spokane International control tower, Guzzetti said.
The plane was approaching Spokane for a landing when the pilot, Salair co-owner Paul Salerno, radioed that his left engine had quit. He rerouted fuel from the right wing tank, and it restarted. Concerned that the plane was low on fuel, he asked for and was given clearance for an emergency landing.
“Both engines quit suddenly” and the plane crash-landed, Guzzetti said. The crew was fortunate to miss buildings to the north and south of the open field.
Further tests are being ordered on the plane’s equipment. The investigation may take six months to complete.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map: Convair 440 crash site Graphic: Convair 440 at-a-glance