2010-12-22 / Front Page

Feds still investigating

Pilot learned to parachute 4 days before crash
By Elizabeth Billips lizbillips@yahoo.com

The Lithonia pilot who wrecked his plane near Saxon Road was trained to parachute just four days before he bailed out in Burke County.

According to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 31-year-old Barrington Carl Slack apparently posed as a Marine pilot and attended “sport parachuting school” in Monroe on Oct. 17.

On Oct. 21, during a flight from Covington to Columbia, Slack radioed in “an emergency” and eventually parachuted from his single engine 1976 Rockwell Commander as it ran out of fuel and crashed on a Burke County farm.

From the get-go, area pilots questioned why Slack even had a parachute in his plane. By the tone of the report, NTSB investigators seemed equally perplexed, especially after interviewing the parachute instructor who trained him.

“(Slack) stated that he flew L-39 (jets), acting as the ‘rabbit’ for other Marine pilots to chase him around the sky and do the dog fights, ‘Top Gun’ style of training,” the instructor told investigators, pointing out that Slack showed up in a military flight suit and requested specific training with the same Softie chute he used for the Burke County jump.

However, when Slack told investigators he once served in the U.S. Marines, he said it was in the infantry, not the air.

“The only thing I thought strange was (Slack) had not gone to jump school and stated it was not required for the pilots,” the instructor continued. “He also indicated during the conversation that the planes he was flying for the Marines did not have ejection seats and if he needed to get out, he would have to climb out.

That’s not all that’s strange.

During interviews with federal agents, Slack maintained he decided to jump from his plane after mechanical problems with the elevator control, yoke and ailerons, (flaps that control rolling and banking movements) prevented him from landing. After “troubleshooting” with an air traffic controller at Augusta Regional Airport and other pilots, Slack put on his parachute, headed “away from homes” and made his jump.

Although his plane was extensively damaged, the wreckage was taken to a recovery facility, the report said, where an NTSB senior air safety investigator performed a detailed examination. The only damages appeared to be secondary to the impact from wreck.

“No evidence of pre-accident mechanical anomalies was noted,” the report said, listing off normal findings for the elevator, yoke and other parts of the plane.

Although Federal Aviation Administration officials did not immediately return calls Tuesday, it appears the investigation is far from over. NTSB findings are preliminary, and a final report won’t be issued until next year.

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