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Beck lost control in deadly Rock Hill plane crash, probe finds

Federal investigators, in a probe that ranged from mechanical findings to medical histories, concluded that Charlotte businessman William "Skipper" Beck was killed after he apparently lost control of his private plane about a minute after takeoff in York County on Sept. 11, 2009.

In its final report on the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board said the flight recorder recovered from the wreckage showed that Beck, alone in his single-engine Cirrus SR-22, lifted off the runway of Rock Hill/York County Airport at 7:15 a.m. in clear weather and went into a slight right turn.

Then, the aircraft began to turn left, reaching its maximum altitude of 575 feet. Its wings pitched nearly perpendicular to the ground and the plane crashed near the runway. Beck did not contact the airport control tower during the two-minute flight.

Beck had a substantial amount of piloting experience in the four-seat Cirrus - about 390 hours, according to pilot logs. But except for an 80-minute trip on July 15, 2009, he always flew with a co-pilot who was also a certified instructor.

Beck was practicing takeoffs and landings the day of the crash, the report said, and he was planning to fly to Teterboro Airport outside New York City two days later.

In its final report, released Friday night, the NTSB found no mechanical problems with the plane, and said the probable cause of the crash was "the pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control and altitude while maneuvering."

Medical history probed

Investigators looked into Beck's health during the probe, noting that he had a history of attention deficit disorder and depression, both of which had been previously treated with medication, and of anxiety, for which he had a prescription for "potentially impairing medication," the report said.

"None of this information had been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration" in his 2008 licensing application, the NTSB said.

Beck, 49, also had high blood pressure and sleep apnea, the report said.

"It is possible that the pilot was experiencing symptoms of his unreported mental conditions, that he was fatigued due to undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, or that he had recently used an anti-anxiety medication at the time of the accident," the NTSB said.

"While it is possible that impairment from one or more of those sources could have adversely impacted his performance during the accident sequence, the investigation was unable to determine the role that impairment may have played in the accident."

Toxicology tests performed after the crash by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City were negative for alcohol; they did show the presence of the blood-pressure medication metoprolol in Beck's system.

Prominent in community

Beck was a prominent philanthropist who invested in the startup of the Charlotte Bobcats and was president of his family's Mercedes-Benz dealership, the former Beck Imports on East Independence Boulevard, which was sold to Hendrick Automotive Group in 2009.

His standing in Charlotte's social hierarchy was such that he played with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in the Wachovia Championship Pro-Am in 2007 at Quail Hollow.

After being charged in January 2009 with soliciting for prostitution as part of a probe into the HushHush call-girl ring - the misdemeanor count was dismissed a month later after he attended a treatment program - Beck returned to his charitable work, which included mission trips to the slums of Africa.

In his will, Beck left everything to his wife, Lynn, including real estate valued at $3.6 million.