Investigators seeking the cause of a late-February small plane crash in Land O' Lakes that killed a Tennessee doctor have ruled out the aircraft as the reason.
"We were able to do a further examination, account for all the parts attributed to anything we were looking for," said Terry Duprie, National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator. "We don't have any reason to suspect anything with the aircraft at this point."
Harold Cameron MacManus, 59, was piloting his single-engine plane when it crashed shortly after takeoff Feb. 24.
The next step in the investigation is to determine whether weather was a factor in the crash, Duprie said.
Flying lessons had been temporarily grounded at Tampa North Aero Park in Wesley Chapel because of inclement weather that morning, but licensed pilots were able to fly. The airport's owner, Keith Carver, said there were 400-foot ceilings. The optimal takeoff condition is at least 1,000 feet from the ground to cloud cover, he said.
Carver was not at the airport at the time of the crash. He said the instructor who let MacManus fly said the sky appeared clear to the north, where he was headed.
MacManus, a Pasco County native, left Tampa North Aero Park about 8 a.m. in his 1979 single-engine Piper Arrow to begin his flight home to Tennessee. MacManus' plane went down in a field near State Road 52 and Ehren Cutoff, roughly 4 miles from the small private airport on Birdsong Boulevard. MacManus' body was removed from the scene the next day.
Authorities were alerted when one of the pilot's family members contacted the Federal Aviation Administration because they had not heard from him after takeoff, according to the sheriff's office.
MacManus is the younger brother of Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida professor and political analyst for News Channel 8. She said the family was frantic on Feb. 25 when they had not heard from him.
The wreckage was spotted on the afternoon of Feb. 25 when Carver went up in his Super Cub single-engine plane to look for signs of a downed plane. He found the aircraft about 20 minutes later and said the only part he recognized was the tail. The remainder of the plane was destroyed.
Investigators are collecting information on that day's weather and continue to research MacManus' health to ensure nothing happened to him while he was flying. An initial report from the medical examiner doesn't indicate health was an issue, Duprie said.
"We cover everything," Duprie said. "We look at maintenance. We look at training. We look at the environment as far as weather. We look at his 72-hour history and further back if we think we need to. We look at everything, including the airport where he bought the fuel. We've already looked at those records to ensure it wasn't some type of a fuel contamination problem or anything like that."
Duprie said it could take a year for the inquiry to be completed.