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On July 26, 2012, about 1910 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N64182, operated by Interstate Aviation Inc., was substantially damaged during final approach, when it impacted a berm just prior to and below runway 20 at Robertson Airport (4B8), Plainville, Connecticut. The private pilot was fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Columbia County Airport (1B1), Hudson, New York, at 1739.
The airplane was based at 4B8. Several witnesses at North Canaan Aviation Facilities Inc. Airport (CT24), North Canaan, Connecticut, stated that earlier during the day, the accident airplane arrived there uneventfully about 1430 and departed about 1630. They added that it was common for the accident pilot to visit the airport and fly around the local area. They did not report anything abnormal with the pilot or the airplane.
Review of radar data, provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), revealed primary targets that originated approximately .1 mile south of 1B1 at 1739:17. The targets proceeded to 4B8 and terminated on a left downwind leg of the airport traffic pattern to runway 20, at 1901:24. The targets then reappeared on another left downwind leg for runway 20 at 1903:47, and terminated at 1905:15. There was no record of radio contact with air traffic control. Additionally, there was no record of any contact with flight service or direct user access terminal service.
A flight instructor, who was walking to his car at the airport about 1900, saw the accident airplane approach. He reported that the pilot made one radio transmission on the local common traffic advisory frequency, regarding landing advisories. The airplane proceeded to fly a mid-field crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern, followed by a left downwind, base, and final leg of the airport traffic pattern. The witness noted that when the airplane was on final approach, its flaps were extended and it was "a bit" high. The nose then moved right, as if the airplane entered a controlled slip. The witness then left the airport in his car and did not see the impact.
Three people, who were driving their respective cars near 4B8 about 1910, witnessed the accident. The first witness stated that she observed the airplane "lower than usual" and it looked low as it crossed a street and impacted the berm below the runway. The second witness stated that the airplane looked level at first, but then the front end dropped down and she lost sight of the airplane. She subsequently saw smoke and the airplane engulfed in flames. The third witness stated that were no visible signs of engine distress prior to impact. Specifically, the airplane was not flying erratically or emitting smoke.
The pilot, age 51, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and airplane single-engine sea. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on July 30, 2011. The pilot's logbook was not recovered. He reported a total flight experience of 1,000 hours on a "Renter Pilot Information" form he completed on June 23, 2012.
The four-seat, high-wing, fixed tricycle-gear airplane, serial number 17275530, was manufactured in 1982. It was powered by a Lycoming, O-320, 160-horsepower engine, equipped with a two-blade fixed pitch McCauley propeller. Review of the aircraft logbooks revealed that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on July 13, 2012. At that time, the airplane had accumulated 8,690 total hours of operation. The engine had accumulated 3,784 total hours of operation, and 1,655 hours of operation since major overhaul. The airplane had flown about 9 hours since the annual inspection, until the accident flight.
Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD), Hartford, Connecticut, was located about 10 miles northeast of the accident site. The reported weather at HFD, at 1853, was: wind from 200 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 miles; overcast ceiling at 9,000 feet; temperature 29 degrees C; dew point 21 degrees C; altimeter 29.62 inches of mercury.
The wreckage came to rest upright, with the empennage resting on top of the airport perimeter fence. An approximate 4-foot diameter by 1-foot deep impact crater was observed in the berm, about 20 feet below runway 20. The cockpit and cabin area were consumed by a postcrash fire. Both wings were observed separated from the airframe and exhibited impact damage along the leading edge. The ailerons were approximately neutral and measurement of the flap jackscrew corresponded to an approximate 30-degree full flap extended position. The horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer, rudder, and elevator remained intact and undamaged. Measurement of the elevator trim jackscrew corresponded to an approximate 5-degree tab up (nose down) trim position.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder pedal torque tubes to the rudder and from the control yoke base to the elevator. Continuity of the elevator trim was confirmed from trim wheel sprocket to the elevator trim tab. Aileron continuity was confirmed from the aileron control sprocket to their respective separation near the wing roots. The aileron balance cable remained attached to the left and right aileron bellcranks.
The engine remained partially attached to the airframe and was canted right. The propeller remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade exhibited s-bending and melting, while the other blade was bent aft and exhibited leading edge gouges. The engine was separated from the airplane and the propeller was removed from the propeller flange to facilitate further examination of the engine. The valve covers were removed and oil was noted throughout the engine. The top spark plugs were also removed for inspection; their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. When the crankshaft was rotated by hand, camshaft, crankshaft, and valvetrain continuity were confirmed and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. Both magnetos sustained fire damage and could not be tested. Inspection of the carburetor revealed that the floats, needle valve, and venturi were consumed by fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on July 28, 2012, by the State of Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Farmington, Connecticut. Review of the autopsy report revealed that the cause of death was "multiple blunt traumatic injuries" and the manner of death was "accident."
Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Review of the toxicology report revealed:
"Zolpidem detected in Liver
Zolpidem detected in Blood"
According to law enforcement personnel, during the 2 years preceding the accident, the pilot had gone through a divorce, a closure of his business, and most recently was anticipating arrest based on a warrant being processed, which included the charge of sexual assault in the first degree. Additionally, on June 22, 2012, a detective received a telephone call from a family member of the pilot, who expressed concern that the pilot was going to commit suicide based on remarks that the pilot had made. The family member later stated that the pilot recanted; however, on the day after the telephone call (June 23), the pilot went to Interstate Aviation and completed a "checkout" flight in order to rent their airplanes. Further investigation by law enforcement personnel did not recover a suicide note.