SEATTLE — The Cessna Grand Caravan 208B EX was on lease to Seattle-based Raisbeck Engineers when it crashed east of Harvey Field on Friday morning.
The crash came as a nightmare sight for Ken Baxter.
“I had just witnessed a plane catastrophe of some sort, this plane is coming down and it comes spiraling down,” said Baxter, who witnessed the crash.
He saw a plane breaking apart in the air, and Baxter was stuck watching from his kitchen window.
“Just you know, you can’t help them, and God I wish I could reach up there and pull them out of that plane,” Baxter added.
Two test pilots, a flight test director and an instrumental engineer died in the crash. They worked for Raisbeck, according to its President, Hal Chrisman.
"All the members of the Raisbeck family are devastated by this tragic accident. And while Raisbeck feels this loss deeply, we cannot begin to imagine the loss and pain of the families and other loved ones of these crew members," said Chrisman in a statement.
"Raisbeck engineering is one of the best modification companies in the world, very careful. Once I heard their name was attached, I knew something was anomalous here,” said air safety expert John Nance.
The pilots each had 10,000 test flight hours. They were on a test flight to collect baseline data before modifying the plane. Nance said the flight path explains what they were doing.
“Very characteristic of a flight test crew doing what they need to do to get a baseline on the performance of the airplane. Putting it into stalls, turns, etc.,” Nance said.
A four-person crew is not abnormal, according to Nance, instead he argues it shows a high level of preparation. Chrisman told KING 5 over the phone that the company has never had a fatal test flight in the company's 40-year history, until now.
"The thing that’s so disturbing about an airplane like this that comes apart in flight with a professional flight crew test pilots on board is that it’s obvious to me that the airplane was not performing to the level that’s expected of it in normal flight,” said Nance.
The NTSB is the lead agency investigating. They will determine what went wrong and whether this is isolated or something that could impact the entire fleet.