Pilot reported steering, autopilot problems before fatal Cobb crash

Officials with the NTSB and FAA remove a black box from the crashed Cessna Citation I in Cobb County. (Credit: Associated Press)

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Officials with the NTSB and FAA remove a black box from the crashed Cessna Citation I in Cobb County. (Credit: Associated Press)

The pilot of a plane that crashed into the front yard of a house in Cobb County reported steering and autopilot problems, according to a preliminary report.

Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, was killed March 24 when the Cessna Citation I aircraft built in 1976 went down in the 100 block of Vistawood Drive in Marietta, officials said.

No one else was on board, and no one on the ground was injured.

A report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board said Westlake asked for navigational guidance to Fulton County Airport from air traffic control.

“He said the reason for the request was because his autopilot was not working and he was having steering problems,” according to the report.

Air traffic officials lost radar and radio contact with the plane when it was about 15 miles north of the Fulton County Airport, the NTSB said.

The plane took off about 6:10 p.m. in Cincinnati and the crash was reported about 7:20 p.m., according to the report.

A witness, who was a professional pilot, said he saw the airplane flying level heading south, according to the report. The witness said there was nothing unusual until the plane made a 360-degree roll to the left before making a steep 90-degree bank to the left.

The witness said the airplane then rolled inverted and went into a nose dive, according to the report. The plane disappeared from the witness’ view behind trees.

Flames from the crash spread to the home, Channel 2 Action News reported. The residents, Norm and Barbara Keller, were at church at the time.

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