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Pilot knew he was missing runway

LAWRENCEVILLE - A pilot who died with two of his family members in a Christmas Day plane crash knew that he was not on top of the runway before he crashed into nearby trees, a preliminary report said.

According to the report by the National Transportation Safety Board, pilot Michael Allan Mucha acknowledged an air traffic controller who told him the Cessna 414 he was flying was to the left of the runway on its second approach.

Mucha, 44, died in the accident at Gwinnett County Airport Briscoe Field along with his wife, 43-year-old Norma Ann Mucha, and their 16-year-old daughter, Samantha. A son, 20-year-old Christopher, was not on the plane.

The report said Mucha knew the weather information at the airport - visibility at 1⁄2 a mile because of fog and ceilings, or cloud cover, at 100 feet - before he attempted his first instrument-guided landing around 8:30 p.m. Dec. 25.

When that landing failed, the report said, Mucha told air traffic controllers that he would attempt a second approach. Shortly after he acknowledged the controller, who told him the plane was to the left of the runway's center line, the controller reported seeing a "bright orange glow" to the left of the runway.

Attempts to contact the pilot were unsuccessful, the report said.

The plane's wreckage was found 1,100 feet to the left of the runway's center line, according to the report. It had reportedly collided with trees before hitting an asphalt conveyer machine at the CWM Contracting Co. plant where it landed. All three passengers were ejected from the plane.

The Muchas, who were visiting family in Gwinnett County, had made the trip from their home in Davie, Fla., where they lived, several times before, a relative said.

Relatives held a memorial service at Snellville United Methodist Church Dec. 29 before a Florida funeral was held.

Jim Thiele, Norma Mucha's cousin, said previously that Michael Mucha had been a pilot for 41⁄2 years and had owned a flight school, Airline Training Academy. Norma Mucha was a fifth-grade teacher at Flamingo Elementary School in Broward County, Fla., and Samantha Mucha was a high school junior.

The preliminary information released in the report may change as the investigation into the accident continues.