• Investigators look through the wreckage of an airplane at Palatka’s Municipal Airport. The plane crashed July 26 at the airport while attempting to take off killing, the pilot and passenger. (CHRIS DeVITTO / Palatka Daily News)

Board releases report about fatal airplane crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary investigation report of the July 26 plane crash that claimed the lives of a married Alachua County couple who stopped in Palatka for fuel.

David and Kimberly Niblett, both 44 and of Archer, were killed shortly after takeoff about 8:15 p.m. at Palatka Municipal Airport. 

The transportation board report said the flight was David Niblett’s second in the 1959 Piper Comanche airplane without a flight instructor. Reviewing the pilot’s logbook, investigators said he had a total of 704.4 hours, about 29 days, of flight experience. 

The report noted the pilot had 15.1 hours of flight experience in the same make and model of plane flown in the crash and 12.6 hours were logged with an instructor. 

The report said an airport security video displayed the airplane climb to about 150 feet immediately after takeoff. The video then showed the plane spiral to the ground after the plane’s left-wing dropped, the report said.

A witness told investigators the plane attempted to take off at a slow speed and the nose of the plane rose faster than the body causing it to stall and spiral, according to the report. 

On runway 17, the report said, the plane’s engine was displaced into the instrument panel and cockpit, and the propeller was fractured from the engine and located about 2 feet into the ground.