On May 20, 2011, about 1745 eastern daylight time, a Diamond DA 20-C1, N877CT, crashed into an empty parking lot near Wurtsboro, New York. The pilot and pilot rated passenger received serious injuries, and the airplane incurred substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from the Wurtsboro-Sullivan County Airport (N82), Wurtsboro, New York, about 1730. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
Witnesses stated to the responding New York State Police Officer that the airplane was observed immediately after takeoff maneuver in a, “quick”, sharp right turn at a low altitude. Soon after the airplane banked right and flew toward the north. Several minutes later the airplane was observed to “swoop” down toward the approach end of the runway and pulled up until it was going in the opposite direction from which it came. This maneuver was performed twice at an estimated altitude of 250 feet above the ground. The airplane was then seen performing a forward slip until it was about 30 feet above the runway, accelerate, and pulled up in an estimated 70 degrees nose above the horizon attitude. The airplane then leveled out and performed another “swoop down” maneuver, followed by a right turn, at a low altitude, toward an empty parking lot. The airplane was then observed in a nose dive just over the empty parking lot. After that, the airplane was not seen again and 911 calls were made by the witnesses. None of the witnesses reported hearing problems with the airplane’s engine. One witness stated that “During that entire time they were flying I did not hear any mechanical problems with the aircraft.”
Two months after the accident the pilot reported what he observed. He stated that he conducted a preflight inspection and did not note any discrepancies other than some water when the fuel system was sumped. He continued with the fuel sump process until no water was detected. An auxiliary power unit was needed to start the airplane; due to a weak battery from the length of time the airplane was inactive. After the engine start, the pilot confirmed the electrical charging system was operating. There were no discrepancies noted during the taxi and pre-takeoff engine run up. During the initial climb, the pilot made a 15-degrees right bank turn to avoid trees. He then made a left bank turn when he was about 400 feet above ground level (agl).
He then maneuvered the airplane so he could be first for landing in the pattern for runway 23. Once a beam from the end of the runway, he stabilized the airplane for landing by reducing engine power and lowering the flaps, while maneuvering the airplane for a left base followed by the final approach. His approach was high for the landing onto runway 23, so he performed a series of “45-degrees S-turns” maneuvers before electing to balk the landing. He leveled the wings when the airplane was about 20 feet above of the runway, added full power.
Upon reaching positive rate of climb, he raised the flaps. With the end of the runway coming up very quickly, he performed another 15-degrees bank to the right and pulled back “very quickly” on the flight control stick to clear trees situated at the end of the runway. He continued in this attitude when he noted a loss of engine power. He checked the engine rpm gauge, which indicated a loss of power. He then pushed the flight control stick “hard” forward to establish best glide speed and established a right bank turn toward the northwest. He experienced spatial disorientation and lost reference for the runway; however, he knew that a parking lot was nearby. When the airplane was about 200 feet agl, he spotted the empty parking lot located 90 degrees from him. He held the airplane in a nose down attitude to maintain speed and was committed to land in the parking lot; he tried to restart the engine but was unsuccessful. At that time he instructed the passenger to check his seat belt and shoulder harness, and to brace for impact. He does not recall what transpire between the time after the crash and being transported to the hospital.
The responding Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) inspector stated the airplane impacted the asphalt parking lot, nose first, spun around, and slid backward for several yards until it impacted with a fence, before coming to a full stop. All flight control surfaces were present and flight control tubes were observed with impact damaged, bent, and intact. The flap control switch was observed in the takeoff position coinciding with the flap position. One of the propeller blades was observed broken from the propeller hub. Pieces of the wooden propeller blade were observed throughout the debris path.
The engine remained attached to the engine mount and airframe. The propeller spinner was damaged with a flat impact area on the lower left side where the airplane made initial ground contact. The underside of the airplane was crushed, displacing the instrument panel upwards, and damaging the cabin floor and firewall. The main landing gear were observed bent up, which damaged the left wing structure. The empennage section was broken and bent down. Breaching of the fuel and engine oil system was observed.
The Canadian designed, Diamond DA 20-C1, airplane was issued a Standard Airworthiness Certificate in the Utility Category in March of 1999 by the FAA. The two seat airplane is powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors, IO-240-B engine, rated at 125 horse power. The airplane is not certificated for aerobatic maneuvers. A review of the airplane’s maintenance records by the FAA inspector showed the last annual inspection was in September, 2010. The airplane had an estimated total time of 1,698 hours at that time.
The pilot, seated in the left, held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land and sea, and glider rating. He was issued a FAA first class medical certificate on July 27, 2009, with limitations. At that time, he reported a total of 840 civilian flight hours.
The pilot rated passenger held an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificate. He was issued a FAA first class medical certificate on July 10, 2010, with no limitations. At that time, he reported a total of 4,500 civilian flight hours.
A post recovery wreckage examination was conducted by a representative of the airplanes manufacturer with FAA oversight. Flight control continuity was established; damage was consistent with impact. Fuel collected from the fuel strainer (gascolator) was observed with contaminants. Rust was found at the bottom at the fuel strainer filter sediment bowl. Fuel was found at the maintenance drains and at the outlet of the engine driven fuel pump. The spark plugs were observed with normal operating wear. The fuel flow divider component was disassembled; particle contamination and with watery white liquid was observed inside. The fuel tank drain sump valve was observed with rust; however, it was functioning when tested. The engine examination did not reveal any mechanical discrepancies.
The manager for M82 stated to the FAA inspector that to his knowledge, the aircraft had been in storage since December 2010. Aviation fuel is not available at N82, thus it must be purchased at another airport or transported by a container to fuel any aircraft based at N82.