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Rudder problem found on crashed plane

Lock was engaged during takeoff; effect not known

Pilot John Schmouth, 69, of Brockton (above) and copilot Roland Deslauriers, 61, of Bridgewater died in the crash,

Pat Schmouth

Pilot John Schmouth, 69, of Brockton (above) and copilot Roland Deslauriers, 61, of Bridgewater died in the crash,

National Transportation Safety Board investigators Monday found a problem with the rudder of a small airplane that crashed and killed two people in Taunton, a finding that will figure into their investigation, officials said.

“We don’t know the significance or effect it had on the craft,” said Keith Holloway, a public affairs officer for the federal agency.

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The rudder steers the plane while in flight. The NTSB found that the gust lock, which is used to immobilize the rudder while the plane is parked, was engaged when the plane took off, Holloway said.

Pilot John Schmouth, 69, of Brockton and copilot Roland Deslauriers, 61, of Bridgewater died in the crash, authorities said.

In a brief telephone interview Monday, Schmouth’s widow, Pat, said the couple had purchased the Aeronca 7AC in recent weeks.

“He absolutely loved flying,’’ Pat Schmouth said of her husband. “It was his passion.’’

She provided a photograph of her husband, but said she was too overcome with grief to talk further.

Investigators continued to document the wreckage at Taunton Municipal Airport Monday and planned to remove the remains of the aircraft, which caught fire after crashing about 6:10 a.m Sunday, said Holloway.

A witness at the airport saw the plane take off, rise to 50 or 100 feet, turn slightly to the right, and descend, Holloway said.

Investigators will review maintenance records of the plane to see what work the owner had done since buying the aircraft. They will also investigate what the pilot planned to use the plane for, Holloway said.

Schmouth and Deslauriers both had private pilot certification, Holloway said.

A preliminary report with detailed information from the accident scene will be released in about 10 days, but will not disclose the cause of the crash. It will take 12 to 18 months for a probable cause to be released, Holloway said.

Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.
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