In its preliminary investigation of a plane crash that killed the pilot on June 7 at Porterville Municipal Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board referred to a “hot start” before the plan crashed.

Lt. Col. Billy Sullivan of the 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno was the pilot who was killed in the crash.

The NTSB report released on Thursday stated Sullivan left his home airport in Fresno at about 1:20 p.m. and landed at the Porterville airport shortly thereafter. NTSB stated Sullivan was flying a Vans RV-6A experimental airplane, N94PJ.

NTSB stated Sullivan refueled at the Porterville airport and reported when Sullivan started the plane “the start-up was abnormal and sounded as though it was a 'hot start' with the airplane's rpm's immediately accelerating to a near maximum setting.”

But NTBS also stated engine momentarily sounded normal after takeoff. NTSB stated the airplane continued to the departure end of the runway and proceeded to take off.

“The airplane began to climb and the engine was making 'popping' sounds while continuing left of centerline,” the report states. “The nose pitched down, and the engine momentarily sounded normal as the airplane then climbed to about 300 feet above ground level.”

But then NTSB added, “the 'popping sounds' continued and some witnesses observed that the engine then experienced a loss of power.

Video footage obtained from a fixed security camere at the airport showed the airplane made a hard right bank, with the wings near perpendicular to the ground, “consistent with the pilot attempting to return to the airport.

“The witnesses further stated that the airplane then momentarily maneuvered to a wings-level attitude and then rolled left, akin to a snap roll. The airplane then rapidly descended in a left-wing low attitude nearly perpendicular to the terrain and immediately erupted into flames.”

NTSB stated the crash happened at about 2:20 p.m. NTSB stated the plane crashed about 250 feet from the approach end of another runway.

The wreckage was found distributed over an approximate 40-foot distance. “The fuselage and inboard sections of the wings had been consumed by fire,” NTSB stated. “The first identified piece of debris was fragments of red lens, consistent with the tip of the left wing contacting the ground at the beginning of the accident sequence. From the lens fragments was pieces of propeller blades and pieces of the skin.”

NTSB stated the report was a preliminary investigation, subject to change and may contain errors. Any errors in the report would be corrected when the final report is completed, NTSB stated.

Zoe Keliher is the investigator in charge of the investigation.

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