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On June 14, 2009, at 1421 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-180, N3226R, registered to and operated by Kolath Airlines LLC, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight, was substantially damaged when it collided with the Mohawk River after departing from runway 33 at Mohawk Valley Airport (K13), Scotia, New York. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The certificated flight instructor (CFI), student pilot, and one passenger were killed.
A pilot, who was waiting for the accident airplane to depart stated, “He started a normal takeoff and tried to get the aircraft into the air. It appeared to me at this time he did not have enough speed to get the aircraft flying. He got off the ground a couple of feet and then came back down on the wheels. He continued and tried again, but was more aggressive striking the tail on the ground. Again the aircraft stayed in the air a little longer but came back down again. He continued to roll further, pulling the airplane into the air for the third time. By now he was further down the runway, this time staying in the air, clearing the brush at the end of the runway. He had the nose a little high this time. The whole airplane then begins to settle down into the river.”
Another witness stated he was going to take up some skydivers. They had watched the pilot make two approaches and decided to pay attention to the takeoff. “As he did his takeoff roll he kind of ran out of runway. He lifted off barely above the weeds at the end of the runway and began to sink in the air towards the river. He pulled the nose up sharply, stalled the aircraft and the tail slid into the river.”
An individual who was fishing with his family adjacent to the airport stated he observed the airplane come over the tree line between 25 to 30 feet in a gradual descent. “The engine was hick upping (sp) like it was misfiring on a cylinder.” The airplane was heading straight towards his boat. Right before the airplane hit the water it turned to the left, and landed about 25 feet from the boat. The airplane spun to the left and the nose pitched down into the water. The witness dropped his fishing pole, dove into the water and swam to the airplane to assist. He made two attempts to open the cabin door but was unsuccessful before the airplane sunk. The witness stated that his skin and eyes were irritated by fuel that was present in the water.
The CFI, age 52, held a commercial pilot certificate issued on April 12, 2005, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, the CFI held a flight instructor certificate issued on October 31, 2008, with a rating for airplane single-engine. The CFI held a second-class medical certificate issued on December 2, 2008, with the limitation, “must have available glasses for near vision.” The CFI indicated on his application for the medical certificate that he had 1,600 total flight hours; of which, 50 hours were flown in the last 6 months. The CFI indicated to the insurance carrier on December 15, 2008, that his last flight review was on October 31, 2008, and he had 1,315 total flight hours; of which, 1,000 hours were in single-engine airplanes. In addition, he indicated he had 213 multiengine hours and 102 turboprop hours.
Review of the CFI’s logbook revealed he had 360.4 total flight hours; of which, 205.9 hours were in airplane single-engine land, and 2 hours were in the PA-28R-180. In addition, he had flown 154.5 hours in multiengine airplanes. The student was the CFI’s first student since he obtained his CFI certificate. A review of the student pilot’s logbook revealed the CFI had flown 5.5 hours with the student pilot in the last 30 days and 25 hours in the last 90 days. The CFI’s first flight with the student pilot was on December 13, 2008. The family of the CFI stated that he has an additional pilot logbook, but they have been unable to locate it.
The student pilot, age 42, held a third-class medical certificate issued on November 3, 2008. He indicated on his application for the medical certificate that he had 65 total flight hours. Review of the student pilot’s logbook revealed the he had 134 total flight hours; of which, 85.4 hours were in the PA-28R-180. He had 17.3 total hors as pilot-in-command; of which, 10.2 hours were in the PA-28R-180. The student pilot had flown 14.5 hours in the last 30 days; of which, 9 hours were as pilot-in-command. He had flown 36.8 hours in the last 90 days; of which, 15.7 hours were as pilot-in command. All dual flights in the last 90 days were with the CFI.
The four-seat, single-engine, low-wing monoplane, serial number 28R-31135, was manufactured in 1969. It was powered by a Lycoming O-360-B1E, 180-horsepower engine and equipped with a Hartzell model HC-CT2YK-1BF constant speed propeller. A review of the airframe maintenance records revealed the last annual inspection was performed on August 25, 2008, at tachometer time 2814 hours. The tachometer meter at the accident site was 2890.1 hours. The airplane had flown 76.1 hours since the last annual inspection. The total airframe hours at the time of the accident was 2890.1 hours. The engine had accumulated 5,229.7 total hours when it was overhauled on December 7, 1999. The engine had 981.3 hours since overhaul. It was not determined the last time the airplane was refueled.
The Albany International Airport (ALB) Albany, New York, located 12 miles southeast of the accident site, 1351 surface weather observation was: wind 050 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 10 miles, ceiling 4,600 broken, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 12 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.
The density altitude for the accident flight was 1085. The density altitude was computed from the ALB 1351 surface weather observation.
The 1451 ALB surface weather observation was: wind 060 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear, temperature 24 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 11 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.
The K13 airport is located at an elevation of 243 feet mean sea level. The airport is 3 miles northwest of Scotia, New York, and is privately owned. No airport services are available. The turf runway is 1,840 feet long and 120 feet wide. Twenty-nine-foot-tall trees are located 102 feet off the departure end of runway 33.
The Safety Board Investigator measured the height of the grass with a steel tape measure. The height of the grass was 3 inches. According to the Treasurer of the sky diving club that operates out of K13, the club mows the grass every 10 days, and the grass was cut 5 days before the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located east of Lock 9, about 18 feet below the surface of the Mohawk River, 625 feet off the departure end of runway 33 at K13. The wreckage was recovered on June 15, 2009, by the New York State Police dive team. The wreckage was placed on a barge and transported down the Mohawk River to Schenectady County Airport (SCH), Schenectady, New York, and secured in the registered owner’s hangar.
Examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly, and accessories revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. The flaps were found retracted, not in the partially extended position for a short-field takeoff, and the landing gear was extended.
Numerous engine components were removed, allowed to dry, and were reinstalled on the engine. Four quarts of aviation engine oil were to the engine oil sump. Both magnetos “P” leads were removed. The engine was started, warmed up, advanced to full power, run continuously without hesitation, and subsequently shut down.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Schenectady County Medical Examiner conducted a postmortem examination of the commercial pilot flight instructor, on June 15, 2009. The cause of death was drowning. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. Naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug of unspecified quantity was detected in the blood.
The Schenectady County Medical Examiner conducted a postmortem examination of the student pilot on June 15, 2009. The cause of death was drowning. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The specimen’s were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, basic, acidic, and neutral drugs.
The Schenectady County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the passenger on June 15, 2009. The reported cause of death was drowning.
Review of the PA-28R-180 checklist for a soft field takeoff states:
? “Flaps 25 degrees
? Back Pressure Keep Nose up
? VX (Obstacle) 78 KIAS (90)
? Vy (No Obst) 87 KIAS (100)
? Gear / Flaps Up / Pos. Climb”
Review of the Cherokee Arrow Owner’s Handbook states on page 24 TAKE-OFF….”Take-offs are normally made with flaps up. However, for short field take offs, and for take-offs under difficult conditions such as deep grass or on a soft surface, distances can be reduced appreciably by lowering flaps to 25 degrees (second notch).” The handbook states on page 25, STALLS, “The gross weight stalling speed of the Cherokee Arrow with power off and full flaps is 63 MPH. With the flaps retracted the stall is 69 MPH. Stall speeds at lower weights will be correspondly less.”
Calculations of the required takeoff distances using the manufactures performance charts included in the Cherokee Arrow Owner’s Handbook on pages 33 through 35 found that the total distance required for takeoff to clear a 50 foot obstacle was about 2,300 feet with no flaps. The required distance to clear a 50 feet obstacle with 25-degree flaps was about 1,950 feet. Calculation of the required ground run with no flaps was about 1,350 feet. Using 25-degree flaps the ground run would be about 1,100 feet. All computations assume a hard surface runway.
A photographer photographed the accident airplane as it was taxiing in after landing. The CFI was located in the right front seat. The student pilot was in the left front seat and the passenger was in the left rear seat.