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NTSB investigates engine issues after plane crash killed 2 men near Livingston County airport

James Tafralian, Philip Colmer identified as plane crash victims

NTSB officials are looking into engine issues after a small plane crash in Livingston County. (WDIV)

HOWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating engine issues after a small plane crash killed two men Aug. 20 near a Livingston County airport.

Philip Henry Colmer, 64, of Chelsea, was identified as the pilot of the single-engine Rockwell Commander M200.

James Tafralian, 68, of Webberville, was the only passenger in the plane, officials said.

Officials on the scene of a small plane crash in Livingston County on Aug. 20, 2019. (Joshua Daunt/WDIV)

Colmer and Tafralian were inside the plane around 11:20 a.m. Aug. 20 when it crashed on the runway while taking off from the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane came to rest in a field next to the runway, near Tooley and West Highland roads, just east of I-96 in Howell Township.

You can see aerial video of the crash scene here:

Officials believe Colmer had finished the yearly inspection of the plane and was taking it for a test flight with Tafralian.

"You know, if he didn't have enough airspeed and he tried to climb out too fast and stalled -- planes can roll over and nose in, and when that starts happening, there's nothing you can do about it," said Steve Ripper, a pilot who lives near the crash scene. "You don't have any altitude."

Ripper believes the crash was caused by a mechanical failure or an aerodynamic stall.

Colmer owned the aviation service at Livingston County Airport, according to authorities. Tafralian was a member of the company that owns the plane, officials said.

Tafralian was an experienced mechanic and pilot who loved to skydive, police said.

Here is the full release from the NTSB:

"On Aug. 20, 2019, about 1118 eastern daylight time, an Aero Commander (Meyers) 200D airplane, N200HS, impacted terrain shortly after departing the Livingston County Spencer J Hardy Airport (OZW), Howell, Michigan. The pilot and pilot rated passenger received fatal injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Southern Aircraft Consultancy, Inc, Trustee, Norfolk, United Kingdom, and operated by a private individual. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 maintenance test flight.

"According to initial reports, the airplane had recently undergone maintenance, including the installation of a new field overhauled engine and a 3-bladed propeller. The purpose of the flight was for a maintenance test flight for the airplane. The pilot-rated passenger, seated in the right seat, was also a mechanic who had performed the recent work on the airplane. The pilot, seated in the left seat, owned a similar airplane make and model.

"The airplane was flown earlier in the day. The airplane was then fueled with 34.4 gallons of fuel. It is unknown if any adjustments or maintenance items were accomplished before the second flight.

"Witnesses reported that the airplane departed runway 13 at OZW; they added that when the airplane was about 200 to 300 ft in the air, the airplane appeared to stop its climb and was silent. One witness reported that it looked like the airplane tried to turn back to the runway, before entering a rapid decent.

"The airplane impacted terrain and came to rest about 600 ft beyond the departure end of the runway. The responding Federal Aviation Administration inspector, the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge, and a technical representative from the engine manufacturer examined the airplane wreckage on site. The examination found the engine air filter element was displaced and in the engine intake tube."

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