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NTSB: Plane Was Surveying Bald Eagle Nest At Time Of Crash Near Lincoln

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The plane crashed onto Interstate 55 near Lincoln on March 3.

The three men on board a small plane that crashed near Lincoln this month were conducting an aerial survey of a bald eagle nest nearby, federal officials said Tuesday.

The crash killed pilot Mitch Janssen, 22, of Princeville, and two ecologists with Shoener Environmental, Matthew Hanson, 33, of Pulaski, Wis., and Kevin Chapman, 30, of Urbana. The purpose of the aerial survey was to “aid in the environmental assessment of potential wind turbine installations in the area,” according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board released Tuesday.

The preliminary NTSB report does not determine what caused the March 3 crash, and the investigation is still underway. But the probe so far has found no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the plane’s frame or engine, no evidence of a bird strike, and no sign of wind shear, the NTSB said.

The NTSB report also cites safety information related to aerial work like the plane was performing that day:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation has published Safety Advisor (Operations and Proficiency Number 8) Maneuvering Flight – Hazardous to your Health? This document discusses aerial work and states in part: "Aerial work includes photography, pipeline patrol, banner towing, and crop dusting. These activities require a significant division-of-attention at low altitudes. Pilots performing aerial work are generally highly qualified and use excellent judgment. But, if something goes wrong, there is little time to recover."

Janssen was a 2019 graduate of Bradley University. He was the chief flight instructor at Synergy Flight Center in Bloomington and also employed as a regional airline pilot.

The plane departed from Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, where Synergy is based.

Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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