Pilot in Wichita airport crash ‘very experienced,’ friends say

Firefighters at Mid Continent Airport Thursday morning where a King Air plane reportedly crashed into the FlightSafety Building. (Oct. 30, 2014)
Firefighters at Mid Continent Airport Thursday morning where a King Air plane reportedly crashed into the FlightSafety Building. (Oct. 30, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

The pilot of the twin-engine aircraft that crashed on top of a building at Mid-Continent Airport was very experienced, his friends and fellow pilots say.

Mark Goldstein crashed in his King Air B200 just after takeoff Thursday morning. The crash killed four people – including Goldstein – and injured five others.

Goldstein, 53, was an independent contract pilot, said Ron Ryan, founder of Ryan International Airlines and a former colleague of Goldstein’s. Ryan verified Goldstein’s death with the media and said he was authorized to speak by the family.

Though official reports as to what caused the accident likely won’t be released for months or years, authorities said Thursday that Goldstein lost power in his left engine.

Ryan said an engine failure “truly is rare” for King Airs.

“If you can feather the failed engine, it’ll fly all day long,” Ryan said. “If you can’t feather the engine … then you’ve got a handful of airplane and it’s a real struggle to keep it flying.”

If the plane was fully fueled, the weight of that fuel would have added to the challenges the pilot would have had to keep it airborne, he said.

With the loss of power in the left engine, the plane likely would have turned, said Doug Range, head of the Experimental Aviation Association’s local chapter. He said he had previously met Goldstein at an aviation safety seminar.

“For a little while, there will be a lot of unanswered questions,” Range said. “That’s one thing about the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). They are good about putting these crash scenes back together and saying, ‘This is what happened.’ ”

Goldstein was a very experienced pilot, said Marc Browning, who said he met Goldstein after flying model planes together about five years ago.

“He was a great pilot, really good air traffic controller and a very kind person,” Browning said.

Dwayne Clemens, owner of the Stearman Airfield in Benton, said he had known Goldstein for more than 20 years.

“He was a good guy and loved flying,” Clemens said. “It’s a loss for the community and a shame that other families are involved.”

Goldstein was a frequent guest speaker for Joseph Beck’s flight instruction classes at Stearman Airfield.

“We’d have Mark speak, do a cookout and have safety meetings where he’d give talks to help out my flight students,” said Beck, a primary flight instructor and ophthalmologist. “He was my go-to expert on the local air traffic control system. He knew the local area better than anybody.

“He was an excellent and current pilot and one of those rare individuals that would do absolutely anything for you.”

Beck said that he can’t imagine the crash being the result of pilot error.

“It had to be more than that, because he was well-trained and current,” he said. “The proper response of the pilot didn’t generate what he needed. It had to be something else, because his piloting skills were just excellent.”

Goldstein became an air traffic controller in 1983 and came to Wichita in 1989, according to The Eagle’s archives. He was an air traffic controller for the Navy before coming to Mid-Continent, Beck said.

Goldstein had recently retired from air traffic control to provide professional pilot services, Beck said.

Goldstein recently attended the National Business Aviation Association conference in Orlando, Fla., according to his Facebook account, which shows numerous photos of him flying and with planes.

He had previously won awards for his work in air traffic control, including an Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year Award by the Air Traffic Controllers Association in 2005 at its 50th annual conference in Grapevine, Texas.

Contributing: Stan Finger of The Eagle

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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