Investigators: It could take year to determine cause of deadly plane crash



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Posted on December 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 14 at 5:30 PM

The cause of a deadly plane crash near the Trinity River Thursday is still a mystery. 

Investigators say it will likely take a year to determine why the plane crashed in a field near the Kaufman and Ellis County line.

Pilot Noell Rather, 77, and passenger Fisher Floyd, 30, died in the crash, officials said.

Floyd, of Highland Park, had two young children and graduated from Highland Park High School. The Dallas Morning News reported he won the ride in a charity auction.
Randy Ball, a fellow pilot of Rather, was baffled as to what may have gone wrong.

"[He] was the consummate aviator and perfectionist," Ball said of the man he described as a mentor. "I'm totally perplexed on what have happened. It just doesn't make sense."

Rather was piloting an L-29 Delfin. He spent four years restoring the vintage jet, and about a decade ago, began participating in air shows, Ball said.

"[He was a] very, very experienced pilot,” said Ron McCallum, a pilot who was also flying into Lancaster Regional Airport Thursday.

He said he knew Rather for over 10 years.

Lynn Lunsford, spokesman for the FAA, said Rather was not in contact with air traffic controllers and did not file a flight log. Lunsford said it's possible the small aircraft wasn't flying high enough to require it.

"We came in, made our approach and our landing and had the opportunity to taxi by his hangar because our hangar is three doors down from it," McCallum said. "We noticed his aircraft was missing. [We] shut down and went to go speak to his son, and found out that he was overdue."

Aviation sources said during the Vietnam War, Rather flew 100 combat missions.

"[As] the business man that I understood that he was, the person that he was, the father and husband that he was, his funeral will be well attended,” McCallum said.