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Battery trouble before plane crash

The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed March 25 in Woodford County reported that his "battery was draining down" shortly after takeoff from Bowling Green, according to a preliminary report filed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot, Dr. Gary Keith Bryson, 57, a Bowling Green obstetrician/gynecologist, died in the crash in a wooded area near Pinckard about three miles west of Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. Bryson was a shareholder in the corporation that owned the plane.

Shortly after departing the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport at 9:17 p.m. EDT, Bryson contacted the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Indianapolis. Such centers provide air traffic control service to planes on flight plans within controlled airspace. A controller in Indianapolis reported having difficulty communicating with the pilot because of poor radio reception.

At 9:26 p.m., Bryson told the controller that he had a low-voltage indication and that his "battery was draining down." The controller asked Bryson about the condition of his engine, and Bryson responded his "engine was fine," but that his battery was draining and that he might "lose radio communication," the report said.

Bryson said that if he lost communications or his instruments, he had an externally powered global positioning system and a backup communications transmitter. At 9:47 p.m., the controller identified the plane at 37 nautical miles southwest of Lexington and at 2,900 feet.

The plane's altitude and course heading were fluctuating, but the controller continued to give the pilot headings and altitude corrections.

"The controller asked if the pilot wanted to declare an emergency, and if he needed equipment standing by," the report said. "The pilot responded that he had broken out of the clouds, but was losing sight of the ground.

"The controller contacted the pilot to verify that he was not declaring an emergency. The pilot responded that he was not declaring an emergency, and that he did not need any equipment on standby, he just 'needed help getting in.'"

The controller asked the pilot if he could maintain altitude and heading, and Bryson responded "affirmative."

The pilot continued to descend and climb. Shortly thereafter, the controller advised the pilot that he was in a descending left turn. At 9:59 p.m., the controller lost radar and radio communications with the airplane.

A witness said the plane "flew over his home and made two circles in approximately 30 seconds," the report said. "The witness continued by saying that 'the airplane sounded very close, and the engine sounded normal.'"

The witness heard the plane hit the ground and found it behind his home.

The impact left a gouge in the ground about a foot deep and eight feet long, the report said. Wreckage was scattered about 54 yards, the report said.

The plane's airframe was substantially damaged and fragmented.

The airframe and flight control components showed no evidence of mechanical malfunction before the crash, the report said.

Bryson, who had been a pilot for more than 15 years, had accumulated 1,693 total flight hours.

The airplane, a Cessna 182Q, was built in 1980 as a four-seat, high-wing airplane with fixed tricycle landing gear and powered by a Continental O-470-U (17), 230-horsepower engine. A review of the plane's log book showed that an annual inspection was conducted on the engine on Aug. 9, 2008.

The full preliminary report is on the NTSB Web site, www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20090325X35727&key=1

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