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On October 12, 1998, about 1530 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172G, N1330F, was destroyed when it impacted the side of a mountain near Bennington, Vermont. The certificated commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological condition prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, that departed Dillant Hopkins Airport, Keene, New Hampshire, about 1330.
After departing Keene for the purpose of "leaf watching," no one reported seeing the airplane or communicating with the pilot. No mayday call was received, and radar services were not requested. About 1730, an emergency locator transmitter signal was received by search and rescue personnel, and a ground search was commenced of the mountainous area where the signal was originating. The next morning the airplane was located approximately 800 feet below the top of a 3,800 foot mountain.
The engine tachometer had increased approximately 2 hours since the airplane departed Keene. The airplane's clock was stopped and displayed 1537.
The accident happened during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located 43 degrees, 1.48 minutes north latitude, 73 degrees, 2.57 minutes west longitude, and about 3,000 feet elevation.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a single engine land rating, with no instrument rating. His last third class medical was dated June 8, 1998. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed as of May 27, 1961, he had logged a total of 205.4 hours of flight experience. From May 27, 1961, to March 15, 1997 there were no entries in the pilot's logbook. From March 15, 1997, to September 4, 1998, the logbook reflected 39 flights for a total of 36.3 hours. In addition, the pilot logged a total of 7.6 hours of cross country, 7.6 hours of night, and 4.3 hours in the accident airplane's make and model. His logbook showed an entry for a biannual flight review on July 31, 1998, in the accident airplane.
In a telephone interview, the flight instructor that preformed the pilot's last biannual flight review stated that the pilot had not flown for about 35 years when they started flying together. He added that the pilot's aeronautical ability was poor at first, but had improved by the time he was signed-off to solo. In addition, the pilot had difficulty with VOR, and ADF navigation. When the instructor was read the hourly weather observation for the accident date, and the weather reported by witnesses, he stated that the "...weather was way beyond the pilot's ability."
A witness approximately 15 miles to the north of the accident site stated that on the day of the accident the cloud ceiling was 1,000 to 1,200 feet above the ground, and visibility was approximately 2 miles.
A Vermont State Police Officer that lived 6 mile from the accident site stated that the mountain the airplane impacted was obscured by clouds the day of the accident.
Twenty three miles to the south of the accident site, at 1552, North Adams, Massachusetts, reported winds 300 degrees magnetic at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, 2,300 feet broken, and 3,000 feet overcast.
Thirty four miles to the northeast of the accident site, at 1554, Springfield, Vermont, reported winds calm, visibility 10 miles, and 2,500 feet broken.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was examined on October 13, 1998 at the accident site. The airplane impacted the western slope of a heavily wooded mountain. At the main wreckage, the slope measured 23 degrees. The debris path was on a magnetic bearing 280 degrees. Above the debris path and on the same bearing were freshly broken tree branches that exhibited a 3 degree descent path. The descent path was approximately 35 feet wide, 150 feet long, and tree marks on both the left and right side of the path were level with one another.
The right wing tip marked the beginning of the debris path followed by the tail section. The tail was 100 feet up the debris path from the right wing, and resting at the base of a 65 foot tree that had fresh horizontal scrape marks on its side.
The left wheel assembly was 50 feet to the left of the debris path, and abeam the tail section. The right wheel assembly was also 50 feet to the left of the debris path, but 45 feet up the debris path from the left wheel assembly.
Fifty feet beyond the tail section was a 10 foot section of the left wing. The leading edge of this section had multiple impact marks that where oriented vertically, semi circular in shape, and consistent with tree strikes. The remaining portion of the left wing was approximately 1 foot to the right of the main wreckage, and underneath the right wing.
The main wreckage was comprised of the fuselage, cockpit, engine, right wing, and a portion of the left wing. All of these components had multiple impact marks consistent with tree strikes. The main wreckage was the last item in the debris path.
The airplane was equipped with a 17 gallon auxiliary fuel tank. The auxiliary transfer pump was on, and the auxiliary fuel gauge was indicating "1/4." The fuel selector was in the both position. The mixture control was full rich. The propeller pitch control was high pitch, and the throttle was out 1 1/2 inches. The fuel pump was off. The magneto switch was in the both position.
The elevator trim was nose up a 1/4 of an inch. The flap indicator was off the scale to the zero side. The flap selector was up and the flaps were consistent with an up position. Aileron, rudder, and elevator control continuity was established to the pilot's controls. Forward of the pilot seat, impacted damage prevented examination of the flight control system.
When the top spark plugs of the engine were removed, the engine crankshaft was rotated. Thumb compression was obtained on all four cylinders, the accessories gears rotated, and all eight magneto leads produced spark. The smell of fuel was present at the accident site, and when the engine was moved for examination, fuel was observed spilling from the carburetor. The four top spark plugs were grayish in color. The number 1 and 3 spark plugs had green pine needles embedded in their electrodes. Chordwise scratches, "S" bending, and leading edge gouging were observed on the propeller.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was preformed on both the pilot, and passenger on October 14, 1998 at the Medical Examiners Office in Burlington, Vermont.
A toxicological test was performed on the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administrations Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
On October 14, 1998 the wreckage was released to Cregier P. Elliott Jr. East Branch Avenue, Brewster, New York 10509.