The investigation is expected to continue for at least a year to find the exact cause of a fatal airplane crash that occurred on Wednesday, Nov. 9 just east of North Platte Regional Airport.

Pilot Adam Helmerichs and passenger Zachary Clausen were killed in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on Nov. 18 that provides clues about what may have happened.

The NTSB said that morning, the National Weather Service issued alerts for low visibility and a low cloud ceiling.  Such alerts require pilots to use their instruments to fly.

The plane, a 5,000-pound Piper five-passenger from Lincoln, was scheduled to stop in North Platte. It was cleared for instrument landing at 9:30 a.m., the same time as the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that during the last minute of flight, the airplane descended and ascended before dramatically increasing speed and losing altitude.

The report says that Helmerichs had recently completed flight training, with 5.2 hours of training using only instruments. One hour of that training was in the airplane that crashed.

The plane crashed onto the bank of a small lake just south of I-80, three miles southeast of the airport. The engine and propeller assembly were embedded in the terrain, followed by the cockpit, cabin, and tail assembly, the report says. Debris was found within a 50-foot diameter of the main wreckage. The report says the flight instruments were destroyed and the landing gear was still retracted upon impact.

The NTSB looks at all available records of the flight, including the Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS–B), a technology that uses an aircraft’s positioning source, avionics, and ground stations to create constant communication. The broadcast happens once per second every second and provides a picture of what happens in the last few seconds of an aviation incident.

The NTSB also examines the aircraft, air traffic communications, radar data, weather reports, maintenance records, medical records and flight history of the pilot, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said.

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