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Pilot in Chesco plane crash recalled as 'kind soul'

Joseph Deal loved adventure. Richard Poch seemingly spent nearly half of his life in or around a plane.

Joseph Deal loved adventure.

Richard Poch seemingly spent nearly half of his life in or around a plane.

On Sunday, the men, both certified pilots, boarded a small, single-engine craft at the Brandywine Airport in Chester County as part of a routine flight review conducted every two years to test a pilot's skills.

They traveled not even half a mile before their plane abruptly crashed.

"Joe was a kind soul and a wonderful man," Deal's family said in a statement Wednesday, after police publicly identified the men as the pair killed in the early-afternoon crash. "His passion for adventure was only outweighed by his love of family and friends and his dedication to helping others."

Federal officials said they are still investigating what caused the men to lose control of the plane.

Deal, 64, of Drexel Hill, was flying the aircraft. He was accompanied by Poch, 67, of West Chester, a longtime Air Force veteran and certified flight instructor with Federal Aviation Administration designations.

Both men had active aircraft registrations with the FAA. It is unclear who owned the plane.

Deal is survived by his fiancee and his five siblings. He was a volunteer for multiple organizations, including the Community Action Agency of Delaware County and Frankford Methodist Church.

Poch, who in addition to a 30-year Air Force career, served a stint as a space shuttle mission controller with NASA, according to online records. He is survived by his wife, two children, five grandchildren, and three siblings. Services were held Wednesday at Temple Sholom in Broomall.

Poch's family could not be reached for comment.

According to eyewitnesses at Brandywine Airport, the engine was checked and cleared before the Sunday flight, officials said. But when the single-engine, fixed-wing airplane made its way down the runway, an eyewitness heard the engine "sputter" and then heard the engine's power restored.

The engine soon sputtered again. The plane banked to the left, and the witness lost sight of the plane, said Tim Monville, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Only a half-mile away from the end of the runway, the plane fell into the backyard of a residence on the 1000 block of Saunders Lane in West Goshen, bursting into flames. The crash site was in a rare open space along a block surrounded by homes and offices.

The identities of the victims were confirmed Tuesday using dental records.

Officials could not say if the pilots may have been attempting to land when it crashed. Based on how surrounding trees and power lines were undisturbed, Monville said there is "no evidence of a shallow-type of approach" to landing the plane.

Investigators have said they were unable to find the plane's serial number amid the wreckage.

Federal officials, including the FAA and the NTSB, along with West Goshen police, were meeting with manufacturers of the engine and aircraft, investigating who maintained the plane last, and inspecting the fuel supply system.

A preliminary report on the findings will be released next week, Monville said.