Willoughby Hills | Pilot discusses flying crashed plane

WILLOUGHBY HILLS --- On Tuesday night, veteran pilot Paul Mikhli stopped at the spot on Bishop Road where a Cessna 172 crashed, killing four Case Western Reserve University college students the night before.

He wasn't a random gawker or curiosity-seeker.

Paul Mikhli had a hands-on personal history flying the plane that crashed.

He's rented several planes from T & G Flight Club.

"In fact, that plane I particularly liked. It had an autopilot on it . I was supposed to go to Detroit this weekend and I was actually thinking of renting that plane," he said.

Mikhli said rental planes are safety checked more closely and frequently than privately owned planes because they are constantly in used.

Mikhli said he had complete confidence in all the planes he'd rented from T & G, including the one involved in the crash..

"Every time I've flown, very safe, just the same as all the other planes from the club...One hundred percent," he said.

Some wonder why four young men would suddenly decide to go up in a late night, higher-risk flight to sightsee.

"I do it all the time with friends. They say 'let's go' and I say 'sure' all the time," he said.

Paul always tells passengers not to distract him going up or coming down.

"We can joke and talk all you want when we are in the air. When we take off and land, don't talk," he instructs them.

He won't guess exactly what caused the crash but believes it was likely several smaller problems that escalated into a more serious one.

"Could it have been too many people on the plane...being at night with a bunch of friends...other things go on. One or two things happen on the airplane. Even if it's not pilot error, you've got a lot of things going on...It's hard to make quick decisions,"

Paul sends his sympathy to the victims' families.

He will watch for the NTSB's findings with the eye of someone with a personal connection to the doomed plane.

The NTSB says it may have preliminary findings on the cause of the crash sometime next week.

RELATED: Willoughby Hills | First crash findings may come next week


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