NEW ORLEANS -- Although a biplane pilot had been given clearance to return to a New Orleans airport, he didn't turn back before the plane crashed, killing him and a TV anchor last month, a preliminary federal report said.
Emmy-winning reporter and anchor Nancy Parker was working on a documentary about pioneer black stunt pilot Franklin Augustus when his two-seat biplane crashed shortly after takeoff from New Orleans Lakefront Airport on Aug. 16.
Augustus asked to return to the airport without saying why, and was cleared to do so, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report released Tuesday.
Although an NTSB statement the day after the crash quoted witnesses as saying the plane appeared to have engine problems, Tuesday's preliminary report said nothing about that. It said the pilot was heading south and never turned back, crashing in a field less than a mile from the airport.
Investigators did not find any problems with the plane's maintenance logs, it said.
The plane crashed nose-down at about a 45-degree angle and most of the airframe burned up, according to the report. The wreckage was taken away for detailed examinations of the airframe and engine.
The full investigation of the crash, including what investigators think was the most likely cause, is expected to take one to two years.
Augustus, 69, had flown for about 50 years and was a New Orleans-based member of a group that honored the Tuskegee Airmen. He sometimes visited local schools wearing a superhero's mask to deliver anti-drug messages and encourage black students to become pilots.
Parker, 53, an Alabama native, had worked in TV news for nearly 30 years, 23 of them in New Orleans, winning five Emmy Awards. They included one in 2010 for "Archbishop Hannan and the Kennedys, the Untold Story," and one in 2012 for "Staying in Line," about a convict whose pen and ink drawings were in the Smithsonian. She is survived by her husband Glynn Boyd, a former reporter who now is a spokesman for a suburban sheriff's office, and their three children.