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On April 18, 2008, at 1155 eastern daylight time, an AeroFab Lake LA-250, N14037, crashed into wooded terrain during a simulated engine failure near Skaneateles, New York. The certified flight instructor (CFI) sustained serious injuries, and the certificated private pilot was killed. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the instructional flight. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual as an instructional flight under the provision of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight departed from Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR), Syracuse, New York, at 1130.
A witness, who lives in the area where the airplane crashed, said that he was outside in his yard about 1150, when he saw the airplane flying north of his house. The airplane caught his attention because he heard the engine making a "sputtering" noise. There was no smoke, and the airplane was circling around and not approaching from the "usual angle." The airplane turned on its side as it continued to descend. Then shortly thereafter, the witness heard the engine rev-up, and the next thing he heard was a "crunching noise." He immediately got into his truck and drove in the direction of the airport. On his way to the airport, the witness saw the tail of the airplane in the woods. He recalled that it took him about 2 minutes to get to the scene of the crash. When he arrived, he entered the woods and yelled "any one in there?" The survivor responded "yeah!" The witness further stated that as he walked towards the airplane, he saw the survivor sitting on the ground with his back towards the airplane. He pulled the survivor away from the airplane because fuel was spilling. After pulling the survivor away from the airplane, the witness called 911 and gave the call center pertinent information about what he saw. While he was providing the information, he saw the other pilot, who was still trapped in the airplane, move slightly. He called out to the trapped pilot but heard no response. Shortly thereafter, the Skaneateles police and fire department emergency units arrived at the scene of the accident.
A statement from the paramedics revealed that they were dispatched to the scene of the accident at 1158. When they arrived at the scene they entered the wooded area, and detected a "heavy smell of fuel." They heard the witness at the scene of the accident call out for them to "hurry." The CFI was found lying on the ground approximately 12 feet from the airplane. The paramedics reported that the CFI was conscious and oriented, and acknowledged that he knew where he was and what had happened. He gave his name to the paramedics and told them that he was the CFI, and that he and the private pilot of the airplane were simulating an engine failure. He told the paramedics that he "lost airspeed thus causing the crash."
The pilot, age 43, held a certified flight instructor (CFI) certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine and instrument airplane. His certificate was updated on May 27, 2007. He held a second-class medical certificate, issued on June 5, 2007, with limitations for corrective lenses. Review of the CFI's logbook revealed that he had accumulated 10,024.6 total flight hours, of which 23 hours were in the Lake LA-250. The CFI had logged 17 instructional flight hours in the Lake LA-250, which were all flown in the last 90 days. Review of the CFI's flight training records recovered from the wreckage revealed that the purpose of the flight with the private pilot was flight instruction for a commercial pilot’s certificate. On the day of the accident, the instructional flight consisted of short/soft field takeoffs and landings, and steep spirals to landing maneuvers. Review of other training records retrieved from the wreckage revealed that the last three instructional flights did not include a steep spiral to a landing maneuver.
The pilot receiving instruction, age 64, held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea, and instrument airplane. He held a second-class medical certificate, issued on March 3, 2008, with limitations for corrective lenses. His logbooks were not recovered for review at the time of the accident.
The five-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 39, was manufactured in 1986. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-540 C4B5 250-horsepower engine and equipped with Hartzell constant-speed propeller. Review of the maintenance logbook records showed that an annual inspection was completed on July 24, 2007, at a recorded tachometer reading of 1800.1 hours, which equated to an airframe total time of 1964.1 hours and a Hobbs hour–meter time of 164 hours.
The SYR 1154 weather observation reported: winds 290 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 25 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 4 degrees C, and altimeter setting of 30.05 inches of mercury.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane crashed into a wooded area approximately 1,000 feet from the approach end of runway 10 at Skaneateles Aero Drome, Skaneateles, New York. The airplane was resting on a 060-degree magnetic heading and the debris path was approximately 300 feet long. The airplane collided with trees and was fragmented along the debris path.
Examination of the airframe and flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. Examination of the airplane revealed that the nose section was separated from the fuselage and crushed. The nose wheel assembly was separated from the strut, and the strut was in the extended position. Examination of the canopy revealed that the engine throttle control was in the full forward position and the mixture was full rich. Also, the fuel selector was in the on position. The underside of the cockpit and cabin section of the fuselage was crushed upwards. The empennage was separated from the fuselage. The main landing gear assemblies were separated from the wings. Flight control push-pull tube continuity was established throughout the aircraft to all flight control surfaces. The engine remained connected to the engine pylon, and the pylon was separated from the fuselage. Examination of the engine and system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the private pilot on April 19, 2008, by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office, Syracuse, New York, as authorized by the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The cause of death was reported as "multiple injuries due to blunt trauma."
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the private pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected in the liver or muscle, and no drugs were detected in the liver.
According to the FAA commercial pilot practical test standards: 9 FAA-S-8081-12B Change 1 (2/22/08), "an appropriately rated flight instructor is responsible for training the commercial pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in the tasks in each area of operation in the appropriate commercial pilot practical test standard. Because of the impact of their teaching activities in developing safe, proficient pilots, flight instructors should exhibit a high level of knowledge, skill, and the ability to impart that knowledge and skill to students. Throughout the applicant's training, the flight instructor is responsible for emphasizing the performance of effective visual scanning and collision avoidance procedures."