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On October 18, 2001, about 1625 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172, N8255B, was destroyed when it impacted terrain after takeoff from Allenholm Airport (VT26), South Hero, Vermont. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. A third passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The airplane was based at VT26, and operated by a local flying club.
During an interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the surviving passenger who was seated in the right rear seat, indicated that the pilot performed a pre-flight inspection; however, he did not observe the pilot take a fuel sample. The pilot then started the engine, performed an engine run-up, and back-taxied to the beginning of runway 18, a 2,000-foot long, 40-foot wide, turf runway. During the takeoff, the airplane lifted off the ground about halfway down the runway, settled back onto the runway, and lifted off again near the end of the runway. The airplane began to climb and everything seemed normal until the airplane climbed above the tree line and encountered a "sudden wind" gust. At that point, the airplane began to sink, the right wing lifted and the nose dropped. The airplane struck the ground nose first and a post crash fire ensued. The passenger further stated that he remembered hearing the engine during the accident and it sounded normal. He did not hear any interruption in engine power or the sound of a horn or buzzer prior to the accident.
A witness near the accident site stated that she observed and heard the airplane as it climbed above the trees. The airplane then "suddenly dipped" to the left and descended out of her field of view. She further stated that she had observed several airplanes depart from the airport over the years and did not see or hear anything unusual from the airplane until the accident.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 43 degrees, 37 minutes north latitude, and 73 degrees, 18 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. The pilot's logbook was not recovered. He reported 150 hours of total flight experience on his most recent application for a FAA third class medical certificate, which was issued on May 10, 2001.
According to a representative of the flying club, the pilot had been a member of the flying club for about 12 or 13 years; however, he had not been an active member for a "long time." The pilot began flying again regularly during the past summer and last flew the accident airplane day before the accident.
The airplane utilized a supplemental type certificate (STC) for automotive gasoline. According to club records, the airplane was topped-off with 22 gallons of automotive gasoline and flown for .4 hours, the day before the accident.
Review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane had been operated for about 210 hours since it's most recent annual inspection, which was performed on April 17, 2001. The airplane was test flown on October 15, 2001, after both the left and right magnetos were replaced due to faulty impulse couplings. The pilot who conducted the test flight stated "the airplane flew great" and he experienced no problems at all.
According to the club mechanic, at the time of the accident, the airplane's stall warning horn was not operating, and a placard was placed on the control yoke on October 16, 2001.
Prior to the flight, the pilot contacted the Burlington Automated Flight Service Station. According to the air traffic control specialist on duty, the pilot was provided an updated briefing, which included "AIRMETS" in effect for turbulence and low level wind shear. He was also provided the current conditions at the Burlington International Airport (BTV), Burlington, Vermont, located about 12 miles southeast of the accident site, and the Clinton County Airport (PLB), Plattsburgh, New York, located about 11 miles west-northwest of the accident site.
The following winds were reported at PLB and BTV:
At 1553, PLB: Wind from 280 degrees at 10 knots, with 15 knot gusts, variable from 250 to 310 degrees.
At 1653, PLB: Wind from 260 degrees at 7 knots, variable from 230 to 290 degrees.
At 1554, BTV: Wind from 270 degrees at 8 knots.
At 1654, BTV: Wind from 270 degrees at 10 knots.
The airplane impacted the ground approximately 510 feet south, and 100 feet east of the extended center of the runway. The airplane came to rest nose down, in a near vertical position between trees which varied in height up to about 35 feet. It was noted that none of the upper portions of the trees in the vicinity of the accident site were damaged. The airplane was oriented on a magnetic heading of about 024 degrees.
All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. With the exception of a 13-foot section of the right wing, and a 9 foot 6 inch-section of the left wing, the entire airplane was consumed by a post crash fire. Both wings leading edges were crushed aft, and the outboard forward portion of the left wing, which included the left wing tip was curled up about 90 degrees.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from the aileron and elevator control surfaces to the pilot's station. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the pilot's station to the right rudder bell crank attach point. The left rudder bell crank attach point was broken. The flap handle was found in the 10-degree position.
The airplane was equipped with a 145 horsepower, Teledyne Continental O-300A engine. The engine sustained both impact and fire damage. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange and was partially melted. One propeller blade displayed "s" bending, and the other propeller blade was twisted slightly aft.
The crankshaft could not be rotated. The number 1, 3 and 5 cylinder heads were separated from their respective cylinder barrels which exposed their valves and pistons. The valves and pistons were intact, and contained some corrosion and combustion deposits. The accessory case, and all accessories except for the starter motor were consumed by fire. The carburetor was not recovered. The oil sump was also consumed, which revealed the camshaft, crankshaft, and connecting rods. No evidence of a catastrophic engine failure was observed. Additionally, the top spark plugs were removed. Their electrodes were intact, and light gray in color.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot and passengers, on October 19, 2001, by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Burlington, Vermont.
The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.
Weight and Balance
An estimated airplane weight and balance calculation performed by the Safety Board revealed that the takeoff weight for the accident flight was about 2,200 lbs, and the airplane's center of gravity (CG) was about 95 inches. According to the airplane owner's manual, the maximum gross weight in the "normal category" of operation was 2,200 lbs. Additionally, the CG range at 2,200 lbs was between 90 and 102 inches.
The airplane wreckage was released on October 22, 2001, to a representative of the owners insurance company.