The small band of passengers aboard Henson Airlines Flight 1517 included a rising young actor-playwright and a complement of businessmen, including key executives of a Connecticut-based cosmetics firm, according to the airline and interviews with colleagues and family members.

Listed among the victims was Larry Shue, 38, of New York, who acted with Rockville's Harlequin Dinner Theater in the 1970s and wrote two plays, "The Foreigner" and "The Nerd," that had scored recent successes in London and New York.

"The Nerd," which opened last October in London, became the all-time top box office American play in the West End. "The Foreigner," staged this summer at the Olney Theater here, was the top-grossing play in the theater's 33-year history and had drawn enthusiastic off-Broadway audiences in New York.

Shue, who appeared with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater after his Washington acting days, performed this summer in a Joseph Papp production, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," in New York's Central Park. He told People magazine last spring that his next play was going to be about "growing old, death, disease and rock 'n' roll."

A friend said that Shue, who was divorced in 1977, had bought property in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia near the crash site.

Five other passengers were traveling as a group on business in connection with Beiersdorf Inc., a manufacturer of toiletries and surgical dressings based in Norwalk, Conn. A spokesman for the firm, whose products include Nivea lotion, identified the businessmen as:

*Frank Tichy, 36, of Bridgeport, Conn., the company's logistics manager, and Barry Petersen, 33, of Trumbull, Conn., the purchasing manager. The spokesman, Donald Brunner, said both men were department heads serving in key company positions. Both were married, Brunner said.

*John Banaszak, 27 and single, of Yonkers, N.Y., a packaging engineer with Beiersdorf.

*Jorge Schwarz, in his 20s and single, of Hamburg, a packaging engineer employed by Beiersdorf's corporate parent there.

*Rich Mikovits, 40, of Ridgefield, Conn., a sales representative for Brockway Plastics Inc., a subsidiary of Brockway Inc. of Brockway, Pa.

Brunner said all five men were traveling to Brockway's plant in Harrisonburg, Va., near the crash site. Brockway supplies containers to Beiersdorf for its products, according to Brunner.

Also killed was Reilly Wilcoxon of Simsbury, Conn., a national sales manager in the West Hartford office of Dunham Bush, makers of heating and refrigeration systems. Wilcoxon's wife said the businessman, who would have been 49 today, was scheduled to conduct a service school at the company's factory in Harrisonburg.

A Du Pont design engineer, James Berger, 45, of Elkton, Md., was on the way to the firm's plant in Waynesboro, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley, according to his wife. She said Berger was regularly assigned to the firm's Dupont's facilities in Newark, Del.

Also listed was Steve Wasserman of Cherry Hill, N.J. A man who identified himself as Wasserman's father said Wasserman was 35 and traveling on business, but said he did not know his son's occupation.

Henson Airlines identified the three other dead passengers as Byron Drummond of Haworth, N.J.; James Torio of South Setauket, N.Y., and Michael McCaffrey of Framingham, Mass. Their ages, occupations and reasons for being on the flight could not be learned immediately.

According to the airline, the plane's pilot was Martin E. Burns, 27, of Glen Burnie, Md., who had worked for Henson since mid-1984 and had flown 3,400 hours. An official identified the copilot as Zilda Spadaro Wolan, 26, of Hagerstown, Md., who had begun work for Henson in July and had logged 3,300 flying hours.