The cause of a fatal plane crash last week near Howell was an engine issue, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The August 20th crash of the Aero Commander 200D occurred as it attempted to take off from the Spencer J . Hardy Livingston County Airport. Killed were 68-year-old James Tafralian, who was piloting the single-engine plane, and 64-year-old Philip Colmer, who was a passenger. A preliminary report from the NTSB indicates that Colmer had performed maintenance on the aircraft, including the installation of a new “field-overhauled engine and a three-bladed propeller.” Colmer, of Chelsea, was a commercial pilot and mechanic who was a 40-year Navy veteran. Trafalian, of Webberville, was an aviation mechanic, pilot and parachute rigger.

Investigators say that witnesses reported the airplane departed runway 13 and that when it reached between 200 and 300 feet, halted its climb and fell silent. One witness said it appeared the plane tried to turn back for the runway, but then went into a rapid descent before hitting the ground about 600 feet from the end of the runway.

Although the plane had flown at least once earlier that day, it’s not known whether any, “adjustments or maintenance items were accomplished before the second flight.” An examination of the wreckage afterward indicated an “engine air filter element was displaced and in the engine intake tube.”

The plane is registered to a company in the United Kingdom, but it is unclear who owns it. A copy of the preliminary report is posted below. (JK)