Charlotte’s plane crashes into a truck on I85; pilot killed

A decorated Army reservist who lived in south Charlotte and served in Kuwait and Afghanistan died when his twin-engine plane suffered a mechanical problem and crashed into a tractor-trailer on Interstate 85 on Wednesday in Lexington, officials said.

The pilot, Raymond John Ackley, 43, died at the scene of the burning wreckage, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said in a news release. The crash happened around 5:10 p.m. on I-85 southbound at Mile 88, the troopers said.

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Emergency personnel work at the scene where a Beechcraft Barron twin-engine plane crashed into a tractor-trailer on southbound Interstate 85 near Davidson County Airport in Lexington, North Carolina, on Wednesday February 16, 2022. Pilot, Raymond John Ackley of Charlotte was killed. Walt Unk The Winston-Salem Journal via AP

Ackley had taken off from Lexington Airport, just west of I-85, when his Beechcraft Baron plane slammed into the back of an 18-wheel Freightliner driven by Barrin Lamont Davis, a Concord resident aged 41 years old, according to the Highway Patrol.

Davis’ truck overturned and left the right side of the freeway, according to Highway Patrol. He was taken to a hospital in Lexington with non-life-threatening injuries, troopers said.

Southbound I-85 was closed as investigators recovered evidence from the lanes, the statement said.

Debris from the plane and the 18-wheeler damaged a truck driven by Kirk Connell Fowler, 61, of Rock Hill, SC, who was not injured, the soldiers said.

Lexington soldiers and police secured the scene until inspectors from the The National Transportation Safety Board has arrived to complete the investigation.

Ackley is survived by his wife, Ching Ackley, and three sons, ages 11 and 6 years and 5 months, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family.

Ackley’s family could not be reached by the Observer. At Ackley’s home Thursday, his family declined to comment to a WSOC reporter.

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Raymond Ackley, the Charlotte pilot killed in a plane crash Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, rose to the rank of captain in the North Carolina National Guard. He left the Guard in 2014 to join the Army Reserve. Courtesy of NC National Guard

Guard, army reservist

Ackley enlisted in the Michigan National Guard in April 2005 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 2007, according to Maj. Matthew Boyle, a spokesman for the North Carolina National Guard.

Ackley joined the NC National Guard in January 2009 and was deployed to Kuwait in December 2011, according to Boyle. He served in Kuwait until April 2012, when he went directly to Afghanistan, Boyle said, where he served until October 2012.

He rose to the rank of captain, Boyle said, and commanded a company of the Guard at High Point.

Ackley won eight medals and ribbons, Boyle said, including the Meritorious Service Medal.

He left the Guard in 2014 to join the Army Reserve, according to Boyle, and remained an active reservist.

“He did well,” Boyle said. “He served honorably. Obviously, he was a good officer.

“Touched Many Lives”

Ackley has also worked for Microsoft for the past 13 years in engineering and customer support roles, according to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for his family.

“Ray touched many lives at Microsoft in a positive way,” Adam DePue, the GoFundMe page organizer, wrote on the site. “He was also a very genuine person, who always cared about the people who worked with him and was a very sincere and dedicated team member at Microsoft.”

DePue is senior director of engineering at Microsoft, according to his LinkedIn page.

“It’s a huge loss and he will be missed,” DePue told the site. “Our hearts go out to Ray, his family and friends at this time of need.”

In just one hour, the site raised $2,220 for the family. As of 3 p.m. Friday, donations soared to $20,615.

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A Beechcraft Barron twin-engine plane crashed into the tractor-trailer on Interstate 85 South near the Davidson County Airport in Lexington, North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. Walt Unks The Winston-Salem Journal via AP

This story was originally published February 17, 2022 11:53 a.m.

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989, covering locals, towns and major news events in the area, and served as editor of the newspaper’s press office. He is currently reporting on the latest news.