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On May 7, 1999, at 2226 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 172K, N7068G, was destroyed when it struck trees and impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Brookhaven Airport (HWV), Shirley, New York. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. An instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed for the flight, destined for South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
A witness, who was also an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stated that about 2215, he was outside his house, and that his attention was drawn to an airplane taking off from Brookhaven Airport. He noticed that the airplane was a Cessna, and that it had a high pitch attitude. He thought the airplane was going to stall. He saw the airplane enter the overcast, then heard the sound of the engine change. He thought the airplane was making a left turn, but then heard it crash.
In an interview with an FAA Inspector, the president of the company that owned the airplane stated that the pilot had worked for him for about a year, flying traffic watch and banner towing flights. The pilot did not have permission to use the airplane on the evening of the accident, and the airplane was not certified for flight in instrument meteorological conditions. The president had seen the pilot around 1500 that afternoon, and there was no mention of an intended flight. The pilot, who had been living at the company's facilities, had "appeared to be normal," and had rented videos for the weekend. In addition, he was scheduled to give flight training the following morning.
The company president further stated that, after the accident, he had escorted the pilot's aunt to the accident scene. At that time, the pilot's aunt related that she had called the pilot at 2130, to tell him she needed to see him immediately. The pilot told her to go to the airport at Mount Holly, and that he would arrive around 2315.
An individual who shared the office facility with the pilot's company, stated that he was asked by the police to assist in finding next-of-kin information at that facility. With the police present, he found that the office door had been left unlocked, and that the lights and computer had been left on. The pilot's car was also found unlocked, with the keys in the ignition and a window rolled down. According to the FAA Inspector, this individual had also spoken with the pilot's aunt after the accident, and confirmed the company president's recollections of his conversation with her.
The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, about 40 degrees, 49.74 minutes north, 72 degrees, 53.10 minutes west.
The certificated commercial pilot was rated in single-engine land and multi-engine land airplanes, and was also a certified flight instructor in single-engine land airplanes and instrument-airplanes. His latest FAA First Class Medical Certificate was issued on October 12, 1998.
According to the pilot's records, he had about 1,950 total hours of flight time, with approximately 130 hours of simulated instrument flight time, 65 hours of actual instrument flight time, and 180 hours of night flight time. A review of his logged flight time during 1999 revealed the pilot's simulated instrument flight time to be 6.1 hours in January, 23.8 hours in February, 10.7 hours in March, and 1.6 hours in April. His 1999 actual instrument flight time was logged as: 1.0 hour in January, 10.0 hours in February, 3.5 hours in March, and 3.4 hours in April. The pilot's night flight time was logged as: 10.2 in January, 11.2 hours in February, 0.8 hours in March, and 0.0 hours in April. The pilot logged 2.8 hours of simulated instrument flight time at night in February, and 0.2 hours of simulated instrument flight time at night in March. He logged only 1.0 hour of actual instrument flight time at night in 1999, and that was in January.
The majority of the airplane's wreckage was located in a vacant lot within a housing development, about 3/4 nautical miles from the departure end of Runway 33. The wreckage path was oriented along a 320-degree magnetic heading, with trees exhibiting broken branches along a 15-degree descending slope. Tree cuts began approximately 300 feet prior to the initial ground impact point, with numerous tree limbs cut cleanly at 45-degree to 60-degree angles. About 30 feet beyond the initial ground impact point, there was a large ground scar, about 21 feet long, and 6 inches deep at its deepest point. About 50 feet beyond that ground scar was the beginning of the main wreckage.
All main flight control surfaces were found at the accident site. Flight control continuity could not be established due to impact damage. Control cable breaks were found with frayed ends, which appeared similar to tension overload failures. Engine examination confirmed cylinder compression and drive train continuity. The magnetos produced spark, and spark plugs were gray in color. The throttle and mixture controls were found in the full forward position, and the carburetor heat knob was found completely pulled out. Fuel was found in some of the fuel lines, the gascolator and the left wing tank, and the right wing tank was fractured. Fuel was blue in color and free of debris. The propeller remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade was wavy in appearance, while the other was bent backwards. Both blades exhibited leading edge pitting and chordwise scoring.
A review of the weather briefing audio tape revealed that the pilot was advised that a warm front was pushing into the region, followed by a cold front, and that there were advisories along the route of flight for occasional instrument meteorological conditions with mist and fog. Radar indicated light rain in southern New Jersey and Delaware, moving northeast. At the time of the briefing, conditions at Long Island MacArther Airport (ISP), Islip, New York, about 10 nautical miles to the west of Brookhaven, included winds from 100 degrees magnetic at 12 knots, and a visibility of 1 statute mile, with mist. Runway 6 visual range was more than 6,000 feet; the ceiling was a 200-foot overcast, and the temperature and dewpoint were 14 degrees Celsius.
The briefing specialist stated that along the intended route of flight, ceilings were reported as being generally 400 feet or less, with a visibility of 3 statute miles or less. The destination automated weather observation facility indicated winds from 080 degrees magnetic at 5 knots, visibility 1 statute mile in haze, a 200-foot overcast, a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, and a dewpoint of minus 2 degrees Celsius. However, the specialist noted that the temperature-dewpoint spread was probably incorrect, since other temperature-dewpoint comparisons in the area showed a zero spread, with mist or fog.
After 8 seconds of silence, the pilot's response was, "wow."
The briefing specialist then continued with the Islip terminal forecast, which called for, through 2300, winds from 100 degrees magnetic at 8 knots, visibility 4 statute miles in mist, a ceiling of 500 feet overcast, with an occasional visibility of 1 mile with light rain and mist, and an overcast ceiling of 300 feet.
The en route forecast called for instrument meteorological conditions below 1,000 feet and 3 miles.
The terminal facility nearest the destination was determined to be Philadelphia International Airport, which forecast, through 0100, winds from 060 degrees magnetic, at 8 knots, visibility 2 statute miles in mist, and a 500-foot overcast, with an occasional 1-mile visibility and 300-foot overcast.
The pilot requested the weather outlook for the next day, from 1000 until 1500. The forecast provided, was that from 1000 until 1400, Islip winds were expected to be from 130 degrees magnetic at 12 knots, visibility 3 statute miles in mist, ceiling 1,200 feet broken, and 3,000 feet overcast, with an occasional visibility of 2 statute miles in light rain showers and mist, and a ceiling of 800 feet overcast. After 1400, winds were forecast to be from 180 degrees magnetic at 12 knots, visibility 4 statute miles, and mist, scattered clouds at 1,500 feet, a ceiling of 3,000 feet broken, and a chance of visibility dropping to 2 statute miles, with thundershowers and moderate rain showers, an overcast ceiling at 1,200 feet, and cumulonimbus clouds.
The forecast was also provided for Philadelphia. From 1000 until 1200, winds were expected to be from 210 degrees magnetic at 7 knots, visibility of more than 6 statute miles, clouds 1,200 feet scattered, the ceiling at 3,500 feet broken, and an occasional ceiling of 1,200 feet broken, 3,500 feet overcast, a chance of visibility at 5 statute miles, thunderstorm and light rain shower, a ceiling of 1,200 feet broken, and cumulonimbus. From 1200 until 1800, winds were forecast to be from 260 degrees magnetic, at 12 knots, visibility more than 6 statute miles, clouds 2,500 feet scattered, occasionally broken, and 5,000 feet broken.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the County of Suffolk, Department of Health Services, Hauppage, New York.
Toxicological testing was performed by two facilities. Results from the County of Suffolk, Department of Health Services, Center for Forensic Sciences, Hauppage, New York, included:
Ethanol: Femoral Blood - 0.27% Aortic Blood - 0.23% Brain - 0.21% Gastric Contents - 1.76%
Carbon monoxide: Femoral Blood - 8%
Results from the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, included:
Ethanol: Vitreous - 0.255% Blood - 0.235% Urine - 0.344%
Carbon monoxide: Blood - 14%
Nicotine metabolite was also detected in the blood and urine, and nicotine was detected in the urine.
On May 8, 1999, the wreckage was released to a representative from Kevin M. Olsen and Associates, Incorporated, Brooklyn, New York.