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Air Traffic Control broadcast recording reveals pilot's last actions in the air

Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 18:41:42-04

A recording of what may have been the last communication a pilot had on an air traffic frequency before his plane crashed reveals the pilot was preparing to land at Palm Beach County Park Airport. 

The audio recording is from an air control traffic frequency pilots use communicate on at the airport in Lantana prior to landing. The broadcasts can be heard live online and can be searched for in zulu time in the archived recordings.  

On it, the pilot in a two-engine Cessna with the same call sign as Castronova's plane tail number says the plane is approaching to land. 

"Lantana traffic: twin Cessna zero seven Juliet out of three-thousand over the intracoastal, inbound for one six Lantana," said the pilot. 

Commercial pilot Art Kamm said that announcement means the two-engine Cessna with the last three numbers and letters of the tail number, 07J, was starting to descend to approach runway 16. 

Less than a minute later, the pilot is heard again, "Lantana traffic, twin Cessna zero seven Juliet on a downwind for one six, Lantana." 

"This gentleman flew in from Key West. He’s coming from the south, he joined what's called the downwind leg where you come in and you turn parallel to the runway you’re going to land on," said Kamm. 

Then, you hear another pilot come on the traffic frequency following the twin engine Cessna. 
"Lantana, turning downwind for runway one six, we'll follow the twin," said the pilot.  

Minutes later, the recording appears to show the Cessna is starting to turn to approach the runway.  
"Zero seven Juliet base for one six."  

"Somewhere on his base leg something happened," said Kamm after the pilot never came back on to the frequency to say he was approaching final or preparing to land. 

Kamm has been flying for 20 years and pilots a plane similar to the one in the crash. He said turning at the base to land is, in his opinion, the most dangerous part of the landing. 

"If you don’t keep enough air over your wings you lose lift and that’s called a stall," said Kamm. "It [the airplane] basically just falls out of the sky."

There's no further information from the Cessna after the announcement that it was turning at the base.
About 12 minutes later, it appears another pilot says he's ready to land, but no communication over the air traffic about a plane crashing. 

The National Transportation Safety Board will be looking into the plane, its systems, the environment, and the pilot's experience to determine what caused the crash. 

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