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Fiery crash of Piper Cheyenne kills three in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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A Piper PA-31T Cheyenne crashed into a parking lot on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 4:20 p.m. EDT shortly after taking off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida killing three people aboard the twin-engine aircraft, as reported on that date by the Aviation Safety Network, the Sun-Sentinel, CNN, National Public Radio, ABC World News With Diane Sawyer and other news sources.

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The deceased have been identified as pilot Steven Waller, 65, of Deerfield Beach, Wallis “Wally” Watson, 66, of Boca Raton and Kevin Watson, 30, of Pompano Beach, Fla.

According to comments on the Pilots of America message board, the Watsons were a father and son team who owned Avionics Engineering, a repair shop, and were accompanying the plane on a test flight checking out communications and navigation displays on the aircraft. Nobody on the ground was injured in the fiery crash which destroyed at least 12 vehicles in a parking lot adjacent to an abandoned warehouse.

The turboprop plane had reportedly taken off from runway 8, a 6,001-foot asphalt surface, and immediately encountered problems while climbing. The pilot had issued a Mayday emergency radio transmission and was attempting to return to the airport when it plunged nose first into the ground after banking to the right. Witnesses reported hearing sputtering misfire sounds from one or both motors.

The Piper PA-31T Cheyenne is powered by twin 620-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-28 turboprop engines. The aircraft can accommodate up to 6 passengers. It has a maximum speed of 326 miles an hour, a cruising speed of 244 miles an hour, a stall speed of 88 mph, a range of 1,702 miles, and a service ceiling of 29,000 feet.

Details of the plane's tail number and year of manufacture have not yet been released. The aircraft is registered to Miami Aviation Specialist, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, an aircraft parts firm. The Pilot-In-Command, Steven Waller, was a corporate pilot who had agreed to conduct a short flight as a favor to the Watsons, according to a statement by his wife.

Federal Aviation Administration records show that Captain Waller had earned an airline transport pilot rating and was qualified to fly in several different types of corporate jets.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a Go-Team which was on site by Saturday afternoon, March 16, according to NTSB spokesperson Keith Halloway, and is expected to release a preliminary accident report within a week.

The fatal crash was the lead story on the ABC World News With Diane Sawyer Friday evening broadcast. The report stated that there are over 1,500 private aircraft accidents in the United States each year, a figure which has alarmed the FAA and the NTSB.

We offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of all those who perished in this tragic incident.

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