On July 8, 2000, at 1805 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 172G, N4198L was substantially damaged from collision with terrain during a forced landing to the Craigwood golf course in North Elba, New York. The certificated commercial pilot and passenger were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at The Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C., at 1355, destined for the Lake Placid Airport (LKP), Lake Placid, New York. No flight plan was filed for the business flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The Craigwood golf course was approximately 1 mile south of the Lake Placid Airport, and several people on the golf course witnessed the airplane's approach and collision with terrain on the fairway of the ninth hole. The witnesses described that the airplane approached from the south, overflew the golf course, and crashed on the northside of the northernmost hole. The witnesses provided statements to the New York State Police.
One witness stated that his home was close to both the airport and the golf course and that he was familiar with the airport traffic pattern. He said he was at the golf course restaurant when he noticed the accident airplane. According to his statement:
"My house is in the normal flight path at the end of the runway. I knew this plane was in trouble with no doubt. I did not hear any engine at all trying to pull out of this low altitude situation. As I got out of my seat, the plane was slanting to the left at a good pace and almost hit a tree on the golf course. Before impact, the plane took a severe left dip and the tip of the left wing made contact with the ground. I yelled 'call the fire department' and proceeded to the scene. Fuel was coming out of the engine."
A second witness was on the ninth tee with three golfers as the airplane approached. According to his statement:
"I heard [a golfer] yell 'he's going down'. I looked up and saw a plane coming across the seven and eight fairways. When I saw the plane, it was at about 60 or 70 feet off the ground. The tee we were on is elevated to around 60 feet and the plane was at eye level. The nose of the plane appeared to lift for a split second and the plane then banked to the left. As the plane banked, the left wing tip caught the ground; the plane lifted just a few feet and landed on the nose. The plane was almost straight up and down. It then dropped onto the belly. We then ran up to the plane to help the occupants. As the plane came across the golf course, heading northwest, I did not hear any engine noise whatsoever. When I approached the plane there was a large quantity of fuel coming from the engine area."
A third witness, who was also on the ninth tee, stated:
"I looked up and observed a plane do a hard bank and crash into the ninth rough... Prior to the plane crashing, I heard absolutely no engine, or mechanical noises. It came over the trees quiet, like a glider. When I looked at the plane before the crash, I noticed that the propeller was not moving at all. I saw the plane bank, then the left wing hit the ground and the nose then hit the ground... I definitely did not hear any engine sounds and the propeller was definitely not moving."
Neither the pilot nor the passenger was available for comment after the accident due to the nature and severity of their injuries. Ten months after the accident, several calls to the pilot's home went unanswered, and were not returned.
The airplane was examined at the scene by two inspectors of the Federal Aviation Administration on July 8 and 9, 2000. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest upright with the main landing gear collapsed underneath. The airplane rested on the right-side fuselage belly and the right wing tip. The lower left engine cowling was crushed up and aft in compression.
Control continuity was established from the flight control surfaces to the cockpit area. The flaps were fully retracted.
The FAA inspectors supervised recovery of the airplane from the golf course. As the wings were removed, the inspectors verified the integrity of the fuel system and documented the fuel drained from the system.
In a telephone interview, an FAA inspector said the carburetor was separated from the engine, but that the wing tanks and the remainder of the fuel system were intact. The inspector recovered fuel from both wing tanks, fuel lines, the gascolator, and the carburetor. According to the inspector, the total amount collected was approximately 1 gallon of fuel.
Information from FAA Flight Service and Air Traffic Control revealed that N4198L departed Lake Placid on July 8, 2000, about 0430, and landed at DCA at 0813.
Examination of fuel records and conversation with the fixed base operator revealed the airplane was "topped off" with 8.3 gallons of fuel prior to departure from LKP. At DCA, the airplane was serviced with 20 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline.
According to the Cessna Model 172 Owner's manual, the airplane's fuel capacity was 39 gallons, of which 36 gallons was usable. Examination of the Cruise and Range Performance Chart revealed that at a 67 percent power setting, the airplane consumed 7.6 gallons per hour. Fuel consumption calculated for a four-hour flight was 30.4 gallons.
The Cruise and Range Performance Chart does not reflect the extra fuel required for start-up, taxi, run-up, take-off and climb to altitude.
According to the FAA inspector, examination of the engine revealed that the crankshaft could be rotated by hand. Continuity was established through the valvetrain and powertrain to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method and ignition spark was produced at all cylinders.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine sea.
The pilot was issued a second class medical certificate on June 16, 1999. He reported 1,550 hours of flight experience on that date. A review of his logbook revealed that the pilot's last logbook entry was on October 19, 1999, and that he had accrued 944 hours up to that date. The pilot's last biennial flight review was completed on June 5, 1999.
The ninth hole at Craigwood Golf Course was 455 yards long and oriented east-west on a straight line from tee to green.
According to the Cessna 172 Owner's Manual, the procedure for a short field landing was:
"...make a power-off approach at approximately 67 MPH with flaps 40 [degrees], and land on the main wheels first. Immediately after touchdown, lower the nose gear to the ground and apply heavy braking as required."