On August 16, 1998, about 1230 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 152, N89144, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering in Jackson Township, New Jersey. The certificated flight instructor received minor injuries, and the certificated private pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed for the local flight from Allaire Airport (BLM), Belmar, New Jersey. The instructional flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The flight instructor provided a statement when requested. On the advice of her attorney, the private pilot did not provide a statement or allow herself to be interviewed when requested, as required by 49 CFR Part 831. The private pilot was in the hospital for part of that time, and although she recounted events to others, she said she could not provide information to the Safety Board. The private pilot provided written answers to questions about six weeks after the accident. In addition, she provided a copy of a statement she purportedly wrote to her attorney while in the hospital.
According to the private pilot, the main purpose of the 1-hour flight was to have her commercial maneuvers evaluated by the flight instructor. However, at the private pilot's request, the flight instructor agreed that they would fly by her house, so her family could see her. When the accident occurred, the private pilot had not completed any commercial maneuvers. The private pilot stated that she was the pilot in command "until just after the first pass over my parents' house."
The private pilot also stated that she made the first pass "over the back portion of my yard, traveling in a southerly direction between 1,200 and 1,500 feet." She said she asked the flight instructor if they were going to make another pass, "and he told me to descend to 200 feet." She didn't feel comfortable descending to 200 feet, so she "let" the flight instructor "take over the controls while we were still at 1,200 feet." She stated that the flight instructor later began a rapid descent, and she screamed "...we're going to be too low!" She did not see the flight instructor pull back on the yoke, but felt "g-forces pressing my body into the seat." The flight instructor then "turned the aircraft around and began a rapid descent...the sensation was to the point that I almost could not breathe." She remembered screaming "we're going to be too low" again, and then the airplane hit trees, and then the ground.
In the questionnaire returned by the private pilot, she wrote that "my hands and feet [were] off the controls of the aircraft" at the completion of the first turn.
In his statement, the flight instructor stated that the private pilot flew the first left turn, then asked how low they could go, and he answered "500 feet." She flew "wings level" for about 5 seconds, then made another left turn. When the wings were again level and the altimeter read about 600 feet, the flight instructor took over the airplane's controls because he felt the private pilot was "getting too low." In another statement to local police, the flight instructor stated that he had taken the controls from the private pilot about 500 feet.
The flight instructor said he did not know if the private pilot was still on the controls with him, or whether he had told her he had control of the airplane, or what the airspeed was. He believed the engine was still at cruise power. He applied back pressure to the yoke, and then the right wing began to drop. The airplane flipped over on its back, and he applied spin recovery procedures. He retarded the throttle, applied opposite rudder, and leveled the wings. The airplane had started to pull out of the maneuver when it hit the top of a tree, then hit the ground.
A witness on the ground stated that there was a family gathering in the backyard of the private pilot's parents' house. The airplane appeared at a low altitude, 200 to 300 feet, flew around the back of the house, and then to the front. The airplane appeared to climb, and entered into what looked like a stall or a hammerhead maneuver. It then flew between two houses and impacted the ground.
Another witness from down the street stated that she initially thought the airplane was in trouble "because it was barely 5-8 feet above the treetops." She initially thought it was headed for a newly-cleared housing development in order to land, so she grabbed her cell phone to call for help. Then the airplane turned east, climbed about 10 feet, then headed north, and finally turned to the west. "Just as it crossed [the street], it began to head straight up, and began a loop...it was truly belly-up. I was aghast...and when it got to the 1 o'clock position, I knew it was in trouble...just like...when a car is unable to make a U-turn."
The flight instructor stated that the stall warning was not functional in the airplane. He also stated that he was not attempting acrobatics, and that he was not acrobatics qualified.