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McGregor air crash kills retired general, raises questions

Waco Tribune-Herald | September 02, 2006
By Tim Woods

A full investigation into the plane crash that killed prominent retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Goodall, of Waco, at McGregor Executive Airport this morning may take months, though a preliminary report could come as soon as Tuesday.

Andrew Guy, a manager for Aurora Aviation, the airport's Fixed Base Operator or service station, said Goodall was killed in the crash minutes after he took off shortly before 8 a.m.

Goodall, 73, left the airport heading south in his small plane, which Paul Schlamm of the National Transportation Safety Board identified as a 1964 Beech Twin Baron BE-55. Goodall soon turned the plane around, however, and headed back toward the airport. The plane crashed in a field about a quarter-mile west of the airport's main runway near U.S. Highway 84 between Waco and McGregor.

Guy said Goodall had filed a flight plan to go to Virginia, where he was scheduled to speak to a group of military officers. He did not speculate as to what might have caused the crash.

According to McGregor police Sgt. Chris Hudson, who was in charge of securing the scene, law enforcement and emergency crews were alerted to the crash by multiple 9-1-1 calls. The first call came in at 7:58 a.m.

Skid marks about 25 yards long lead up to the wreckage. All that remained of the plane following the crash and ensuing fire was a piece of the tail and the wings. The plane's cabin appeared to be completely charred. Debris was strewn within 20 yards of the wreckage.

Schlamm said the initial report confirms Goodall was the only person on the plane.

Officials with the NTSB, which will head the investigation, and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the scene early this afternoon and made a cursory inspection of the crash site.

Frank McGill, lead NTSB investigator, said it is far too early to speculate about possible causes for the crash. McGill said the plane Goodall was flying was in mint condition and had been recently inspected and was taken for a test flight on Friday.

McGill said preliminary evidence indicates that Goodall may have been trying to return to the main airstrip, but he added he wanted to talk with witnesses and examine all of the evidence before making that conclusion.

McGill said at least one person saw the plane take off.

Inspectors will look at the plane's engines and other physical aspects. They also will evaluate weather conditions at the time of the crash, as well as Goodall's physical health.

Harold Rafuse, owner of Aurora Aviation and Aurora Avionics, co-owned the airplane with Goodall. Rafuse, who said he has known Goodall for about 10 years, said his friend and business associate passed a physical examination about a month ago and took his “check ride” with an FAA examiner about two weeks ago, passing “with flying colors.”

Goodall was to host a weeklong session with military officers in Norfolk, Va., at the Joint Forces Staff College, Rafuse said.

“This was his last time to do it,” Rafuse said. “He didn't want to do anymore. (He) thought he had done enough. But if the government had asked him to do it again, he would have, I guarantee it.”

McGill said the plane Goodall was flying is not prone to accidents.

“Actually, it's a very safe airplane,” McGill said. “It's got a lot of reliability.”

Representatives from both Beech and Teledyne Continental — which made the airplane's engines — will be at the crash site on Sunday to aid in the investigation, McGill said.

“This is a team concept, so really tomorrow we'll start the investigation,” McGill said.

McGill said he will release information as he deems appropriate and that the preliminary report will likely come on Tuesday or Wednesday. However, the entire investigation could take months, as evidence gathered from various sources must be pieced together.



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