Preliminary Report: Pilot Reported 'Engine Issues' Before Fatal Plane Crash in Wisconsin

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The Rock County Sheriff Commander points on a map to the location of a fatal airplane crash near Janesville, Wisconsin.
Rock County Sheriff Commander Jude Maurer points on a map to the location of a fatal airplane crash found in a wooded creek area behind a home on West Sunny Lane, south of Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, near Janesville, Wis., on Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, 2021. (Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette via AP)

A pilot aboard a small plane reported engine issues and asked to land before the plane crashed near Janesville earlier this month, killing the two occupants, according to a preliminary report on the fatal accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on the Feb. 16 crash that killed two celebrated pilots, including one who was a "valued member" of the Madison-based Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing.

Staff Sgt. Remington K. Viney, 26, of Kimberly, and Tanner W. Byholm, 25, of Glidden, died in the crash about a mile south of the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

The plane, a Velocity V-twin, which is described as an experimental, amateur-built airplane, took off from the Appleton International Airport at 6:34 a.m. on its way to Florida, the report said.

Approximately 40 minutes later, the report said, the plane landed at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport to fuel up.

After getting 53.5 gallons of fuel, the pilots were cleared to take off from Southern Wisconsin at about 9:12 a.m., according to the report, on their way to Sebastian, Florida, for maintenance on the plane's landing gear system.

The report said one minute and 16 seconds after the plane took off, one of the pilots asked air traffic control to turn around and land, with the unidentified pilot saying they needed to "work through some engine issues." An air traffic controller acknowledged the request, according to the report, and asked if assistance was needed, to which a pilot replied, "No sir, we should be fine."

No other radio communication was received from the plane, the report said.

Around 9:17 a.m., five minutes after takeoff, the Velocity V-Twin crashed in a tributary of the Rock River.

"The air traffic controller on duty saw the airplane south of the airport just prior to impact," the report said. "He stated that when the airplane was just beyond the trees, he saw it begin to circle left."

Halfway through the circle, the air traffic controller reported the airplane's "bank angle" increased and the nose of the plane "was almost pointed down toward the ground," the report said.

Around the same time, a witness outside his house about half a mile from the crash site reported hearing a "loud roar" and saw a plane with its nose at an estimated 80-degree downward pitch, the report said.

The witness saw the plane disappear behind trees, and the engine noise stopped, according to the report.

This article is written by Logan Wroge from The Wisconsin State Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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