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On March 29, 1995, about 2020 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172P, N96746, was destroyed when it struck rising terrain in Naples, New York. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger received serious injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site. No flight plan had been filed for the flight which departed Poughkeepsie, New York, at 1829, and was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The pilot received three weather briefings within 8 hours for a flight between Poughkeepsie, and Niagara Falls, New York.
The first briefing occurred at 0907, and was for a proposed departure time of 0700 on March 30, 1995. The pilot was advised of a low pressure system moving into the area. When the briefer asked if this was instrument flight, the pilot replied no, and the briefer added, "...right now it doesn't look promising because after late evening tonight, in that area they're looking for five thousand overcast...."
The second briefing occurred at 1307, with a proposed departure time of 2000, and was a self briefing, using a computer terminal. The synopsis stated: "AT 09Z [0400 EST] TROF XTNDD FROM ERN VA TO LOW OVER SERN MI...CONTG WWD ACRS SRN WR. BY 04Z [2300 EST] LOW WILL MOVE TO LO WITH TROF THRU CNTRL PA TO SWRN VA." An AIRMET for mountain obscurement was valid for Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. The AIRMET stated in part, "...CONDS MOVG SLOLY NEWD AND CONTG BYD 21Z [1600 EST].
The third briefing was conducted at 1701, and included advisories about mountain obscurement, rain, and rime ice, from a system that was moving onto the pilot's route of flight. The pilot was told this system would, "...affect your route all night long...."
At the completion of the briefing, and when asked if he was going tonight, the pilot replied, "...I'm not a hundred percent certain yet...." When asked if he wanted to file a flight plan, the pilot replied, "Ah no not at this time."
The flight departed Poughkeepsie, and climbed to a cruise altitude of 6,500 feet. Passing Binghamton, at 1944, the flight initiated a descent below 5,500 feet. At 2000, the pilot reported that he was at 3,000 feet and in a snow squall. At 2008, he reported that he was 2 miles south of the Penn Yan Airport, with the visibility improving, but still in snow. The pilot was then advised that radar contact had been lost, to reset the transponder to code 1200, and to attempt contact Rochester Approach Control.
At 2016:07, the pilot made initial contact with Rochester Approach Control and requested flight following to Niagara Falls. At 2018:58, the pilot transmitted, "Seven four six is descending to two thousand feet." Approach control replied, "...roger I'm probably not gonna pick you up for about twenty miles at that altitude...." The pilot's reply was the last transmission received.
The surviving passenger reported that the airplane and engine were operating normally, and that they had been operating in snow, and were in fog, when the accident occurred.
Two witnesses were located about 1 1/2 miles southeast of the accident site. One reported that the clouds were very low, the mountain tops were obscured, and she saw a light colored airplane with a light on the tail flying toward the west. The other witness reported that the engine sounded even and smooth.
The accident occurred during the hours of darkness at location 42 degrees, 42 minutes North, and 77 degrees, 26 minutes West.
The pilot-in-command held a Private Pilot Certificate for single engine land airplanes. He held a first class FAA Airman Medical Certificate, with a vision limitation, issued on December 6, 1994. The following flight times were extracted from the pilot's log book, which was current through March 23, 1995:
Total Flight Time ................ 113 hours Pilot-In-Command ................. 79 hours Night Time ....................... 11 hours Night Cross Country .............. 6 hours Simulated Instrument Time ........ 1.6 hours (Last logged on September 12, 1994) Last 90 days Total 17.4 hours Night 3.1 hours Cessna 172 10.1 hours
The pilot was not instrument rated.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was examined on March 30 and 31, 1995, at the accident site, which was located in mountainous terrain that was sparsely populated, and had limited ground lighting. The terrain sloped upward at 22 degrees.
Multiple trees with broken branches were aligned along a heading of 290 degrees. The breaks measured level with the horizon. The left wing was found 81 feet, and the fuselage 124 feet, from the initial tree strike. Pieces of cut wood with dark marks similar to black paint transfer were found along the debris path.
The fuselage was upright, heading 240 degrees. The engine power controls were in the forward position. Both control yokes were broken off in the mid range position. Flight control continuity was verified between the rudder, elevator, and right wing, and the cabin area. The wing flaps were retracted.
The forward cabin seats were attached to their seat rails, and the shoulder harnesses were attached to the seat belts. The lap belt material was deformed and shiny, in the area behind the friction roller of the latches for the front seat belts.
Compression was found in all cylinders of the engine. The top spark plugs were slate gray in appearance with no distress. Both magnetos produced spark. The vacuum pump vanes, rotor and shear shaft were intact and did not bind. Both propeller blades were bent back, with an "S" curve on the outer section of one blade, and leading edge impact damage on the other blade.
Fuel was found in the line leading to the carburetor, the fuel strainer, and an undetermined amount was found in the right wing. The fuel filter in the carburetor was clean.
The left wing had leading edge impact damage approximately 12 inches in diameter, inboard of the wing strut attach point. The fuel tank was ruptured. The flight control cables were attached to the aileron bell crank, and the ends of the control cables were frayed.
The Civil Air Patrol and FAA reported that the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was found in the OFF position. Field testing revealed it would operate when switched to ON, or placed in the ARMED position, and then subjected to shock.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Robert Babkowski, Deputy Medical Examiner, Monroe County, New York, on March 31, 1995.
Toxicological testing conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol.
A ground search by the Civil Air Patrol was unsuccessful in finding the airplane, or receiving a signal from an ELT. The location of the accident site remained unknown until the following morning, when the surviving passenger walked off the mountain to a road where she received assistance. The pilot was found about 0900, at the scene, and was conscious. He was transported to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
A Dorne & Margolin ELT, P/N 589512-0103, S/N 2352, was mounted on the upper right side of the fuselage, and extended into the upper shelf of the baggage compartment. The unit, including the ON/OFF/ARMED switch, was covered by a plastic cover, which was held in place by velcro. The ELT was not listed as a pre-flight item in the Cessna 172P Pilot's Operating Handbook, checklist. The pilot had not been taught to check the ELT as a pre-flight item on each flight.
The aircraft wreckage was released to the insurance adjustor, Mr. Bryan Owens, on March 31, 1995.