FAA Issued Safety Directive on Montana Plane

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2009 5:38 PM CDT
A fire burns inside the Holy Cross Cemetery after a small, singe-engine plane crashed in an area just south of the Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Mont.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A new wrinkle has emerged in the investigation of the plane crash that killed 14 people in Montana Sunday, ABC News reports. Just two weeks ago, the FAA issued a directive ordering operators of the Pilatus PC-12 model to check for a potential problem with a control mechanism. The directive does not go into effect until March 30, and it's not clear if the Montana plane had undergone an inspection of the mechanism, called a stick-pusher.

The device is a back-up mechanism that can help pilots with a "last-ditch" effort to control a troubled plane, says an expert. “Anything that could have affected the ability of this pilot to control the pitch of the plane is on the table.” Investigators have actually found the Montana plane's stick-pusher and see no problems so far. The investigation also will focus on the weight of the aircraft, which had more passengers than it was rated for.