HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On July 28, 2001, at 1842 eastern daylight time, an Aeronca S-65-CA "Chief", N1049Y, was destroyed during collision with wires and terrain in low-level cruise flight in Esperance, New York. The certificated private pilot/owner and passenger sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to the New York State Police, the flight departed the pilot/owner's private grass strip in Esperance, about 1835, for the local flight. The accident site was 1 mile from the pilot/owner's private strip.
The Chief of the local fire department, who was a former military aircraft mechanic, provided a written statement and an interview. He said he heard an airplane approach his house at low altitude, and ran outside to investigate, because a red plane had been flying low over his house and the Schoharie Creek in the weeks before the accident. He said the airplane was "super-low" as it passed over his house and the treetops at the edge of a cliff above Schoharie Creek.
The Chief said the airplane's flight path was perpendicular to the creek as it passed over his house and approached the edge of the cliff. At the cliff's edge, the engine power reduced, and the airplane entered a steep, descending, left-hand turn into the creek bed. With a model of an airplane in his hand, the Chief demonstrated a descending left-hand turn at about a 45-degree angle of bank.
According to the Chief, there was a smooth increase in engine power after the airplane dropped below the cliff. When asked if he heard any interruption of engine power, he said:
"No. It was smooth power off, and smooth power back on. No interruption. When he came over he wasn't doing much more than 50 knots. He came over, did a high bank to the left, and dropped down and in. We all knew the red plane that flew low over here."
The Fire Chief's wife, also a firefighter, saw the airplane fly overhead and descend into the creek bed. She said the airplane was so low that the house "rumbled", and she also demonstrated the steep, descending, left-hand turn.
Both the Fire Chief and his wife said they responded to the scene after they heard the sound of the crash to render first aid. They both stated that upon arrival at the scene they noted the wreckage in the creek with the occupants inside, and a parallel set of power lines broken and down in the water upstream of the wreckage.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on May 10, 2000. He reported 3,080 hours of flight experience on that date.
The pilot's total flight experience could not be determined. The pilot was issued his private pilot certificate on February 25, 1980. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that the first entry was dated March 21, 1988. The last entry was dated May 23, 1995. No other pilot logbooks were recovered. No previous flight experience was carried forward to the recovered logbook and none of the times entered in the logbook were totaled.
The pilot's most recent documented biennial flight review was completed June 22, 1994, in a Piper PA-28R.
A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed the airplane was on an annual inspection program. The most recent annual inspection was dated July 1, 2001, at 762 aircraft hours. Discrepancies between tachometer times and total aircraft times written in the maintenance logbooks could not be reconciled. The tachometer reading at the accident site was 84.69 hours. No tachometer replacement was annotated in either logbook.
At 1851, the weather reported at the Albany County Airport, 25 miles east of the accident site, included clear skies with 10 miles visibility and winds from 080 degrees at 3 knots.
The airplane was examined at the accident site on July 29, 2001. There was a strong odor of automotive gasoline, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest inverted in the center of a wide, shallow creek bed that was oriented in an east/west direction. There were cliffs and tall trees on both sides of the creek.
At the point where the witness said the airplane entered the creek bed, the distance from the top of the trees at the edge of the cliff to the surface of the water was about 200 feet.
The wires were unmarked and suspended about 50 feet above the water. The wires crossed the creek about 1,500 downstream from where the airplane entered the creek bed, and were oriented approximately 040/220 degrees magnetic. The poles that suspended the wires were each set back about 75 feet from the shoreline. The trees on either side of the power line right-of-way were taller than the poles, had grown together above the poles and wires, and formed a canopy.
The power company had repaired the power lines on the evening of the accident. From the point of the repair splices in the wires to the wreckage measured 180 feet, and oriented the wreckage path 080 degrees magnetic.
The engine, firewall, and instrument panel were crushed aft and came to rest suspended on top of the cockpit area. The carburetor was broken away from the engine and suspended by power control cables and linkages.
The wings and wing box structure were largely intact, and rested perpendicular to the ground on the trailing edges. The outer 4 feet of the leading edge of both wings were crushed aft in compression.
Examination of the wood propeller revealed that the hub and interior 12 inches of both blades remained attached. The fractured ends of the blades were "broomstrawed" and the splinters were bent opposite the direction of rotation. The propeller retention nut displayed rotational smearing.
The instrument panel, cockpit, and the forward portion of the empennage were completely destroyed by impact. The tail section, horizontal stabilizers, elevator, vertical fin, and rudder were attached and intact.
Flight control cable continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit area.
Examination of the right wing strut revealed spiraled striations in the paint along the leading edge.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Director of Laboratory Services, St. Mary's Hospital, Amsterdam, New York, performed an autopsy on the pilot.
Toxicological testing was performed at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The engine was removed from the wreckage and examined at the scene on July 30, 2001. The crankshaft was rotated by hand and continuity was established through the powertrain and valvetrain to the magnetos and tachometer generator.
Compression was confirmed in all cylinders using the thumb method.
During rotation of the engine, both magneto impulse couplings were heard to "snap". Magneto timing was confirmed at 23 degrees before top dead center, which was within the manufacturer's specifications. The magnetos produced spark at all terminal leads.
Examination of the spark plugs revealed that the electrodes were intact, and dark gray in color.
According to additional witnesses at the scene, the airplane had completed several low-level flights down the Schoharie Creek during the three weeks prior to the accident. One witness who lived on the bank of the creek said, "That red plane was flying up and down the creek so low that he rattled my windows. I've seen him fly down here so low that he would have to lift up to get over the bridge." Another witness said, "Twice he went by so low he was below the treetops."
The airplane wreckage was released to the Burtonsville, New York, Fire Department safety officer on July 30, 2001.