Courier staff and wire reports

Authorities in Texas have confirmed that the pilot of a cargo plane that crashed into the bay off Houston Feb. 23 was a resident of Jefferson County, Indiana, and his identity has been been verified.

The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said the remains recovered from Trinity Bay are those of Capt. Rick Blakely, 60, who is married to Katey Brichto, also of Jefferson County.

The Madison Courier was aware that Blakely was the pilot of plane, but at the time of the crash and at the wishes of his family, chose not to disclose his name until an official identification was made.

Atlas Air Flight 3591, a Boeing 767 flying Amazon parcels from Miami to Houston, crashed Feb. 23 into the bay 35 miles east of Houston.

The other two people aboard were Conrad Aska, a 44-year-old first officer and co-pilot, and Sean Archuleta, a 36-year-old pilot for another airline who was aboard to get a ride to Houston.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported Sunday that the flight data recorder had been recovered, days after the recovery of the cockpit voice recorder.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the NTSB said its preliminary review of the audio found that 18 seconds before the recording ends there were “crew communications consistent with a loss of control of the aircraft.” NTSB did not say why the crew may have lost control.

Air traffic control had given the crew instructions to land on a runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Investigators are still reviewing the audio and information from the flight’s data recorder, and the NTSB cautioned that its early findings may change.

The two-hour cockpit recording is of the final moments of the flight. The NTSB said the audio is difficult to discern at times and investigators have had to use “advanced audio filtering” to make out some of what was said. The agency said it plans to provide an update from its review of flight data in a few days and will eventually produce a transcript of the cockpit audio.

Madison glass artist Seth Bickis, in a post on his Facebook page soon after the crash, wrote of Blakely:

“Rick Blakely will always be one of the kindest and most genuine men I have ever known. His enthusiasm for whatever you were doing was always right there in your face and as true as the giant hug he is known for. Rick was a pilot, not just any pilot but a captain who was cleared to fly some of the biggest commercial jets out there. The seriousness for his job was only matched by his ability to make crowd of people laugh and smile.”

Madison resident Don Clapham knew Blakely for about 10 years.

“He was incredible,” Clapham said. “He was a good friend. I’ll miss him terribly. …He was a smart guy, a fun guy.”

This story was supplemented with material from The Associated Press.