NTSB releases report into Cumberland County plane crash that killed Knoxville man

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CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Knoxville man was killed in a single-engine plane crash last week in a wooded area of Cumberland County near Crossville.

According to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, 35-year-old Vasile Ghelan was found dead at the crash site. Authorities from several agencies were alerted to the crash of the Gulfstream American AA-5A aircraft Ghelan was flying around 7:52 a.m on May 25 by Roane County 911.


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Ghelan was a student pilot of a flight school in the Knoxville area and was on an instructional flight at the time of the crash. A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report shows that the plane departed Crossville Memorial Airport around 7:15 a.m. the morning of the crash on the second leg of its flight and its next stop was Cleveland Regional Airport in Cleveland, Tenn., outside of Chattanooga and 50 miles to the south of Crossville.

Preliminary investigation shows the airplane climbed to the south to 3,700 feet before beginning a gradual descent around 7:18 a.m. The plane continued traveling south until around 7:23 a.m. and 3,000 feet when the plane entered a 450-degree descending right turn.


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Around 7:26 a.m., at about 2,300 feet, Ghelan called his flight instructor. His flight instructor said in the NTSB report that Ghelan said the plane’s engine was not making full power. Ghelan’s demeanor was calm the entire time he was on the phone with his instructor. Ghelan informed his instructor after troubleshooting the aircraft that he believed he was about 40 to 50 miles from Crossville at that point and couldn’t make it back to the airport, nor was there an airport nearby that he could land. His instructor advised him to make an emergency landing in a field, but Ghelan said that there were trees and mountains all around him.

Ghelan also advised his instructor that he was not in communication with air traffic control. Soon after this, Ghelan’s instructor said he heard trees and impact before the connection went dead.

The NTSB report shows that Ghelan did reverse course about eight miles south of the Crossville airport and “traversed a large, open, cultivated field before impacting rising terrain on a heavily wooded ridgeline.”


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Ghelan had started flight lessons a month before the crash occurred, and his instructor said that he had about 44 hours of flight experience, all of which was in the aircraft involved in the crash. He was considered a “conscientious student who flew an average of 3 times per week.” The accident flight was Ghelan’s first cross-country solo flight.

The aircraft was based out of Knoxville Downtown Island Home Airport, with ID number #N26889. The last time it had been inspected was December 11, 2020.

Read the full preliminary report from the NTSB here.

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