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N1253J accident description

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Tail numberN1253J
Accident dateAugust 20, 1994
Aircraft typeRockwell 112A
LocationBinghamton, NY
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 20, 1994, at 1408 eastern daylight time, a Rockwell Commander 112A, N1253J, struck trees on takeoff and then struck the ground in Binghamton, New York. The pilot was fatally injured and the passenger received serious injuries. Visual meterological conditions prevailed. An Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed, however, it had not been activated. The flight was operated under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight was departing from Chenango Bridge Airport, Binghamtom, on runway 27. After becoming airborne, the airplane struck the tops of trees located 350 feet from the departure end of the runway and 50 feet above the runway.

The accident was observed by several local residents who reported the engine sounded normal until the airplane struck the eucalyptus trees, after which a power reduction was heard, The airplane then veered left and struck the ground, 480 feet from the tree strike.

The surviving passenger reported the winds were calm on the takeoff. In addition, she said, "the takeoff was normal, except they brushed the tops of trees." She reported the engine sounded normal to her and that they had made numerous departures in the same direction with similar loads, on previous flights.

The airplane came to rest in the back yard of an unoccupied residence, at 8 Davis Street, Binghamton.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at location 41 degrees, 11 minutes, 30 seconds North and 75 degrees, 50 minutes, 50 seconds West.


The 49 year old pilot-in-command was the holder of a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument airplane limitations. He held a FAA Class 2 Airman Medical Certificate, with a limitation to wear correction lenses, issued on November 4, 1993. According to the pilot's log book which was current through July 27, 1994, he had a total time of 1273 hours, with 367 hours in the accident airplane. Additionally, he had flown 27 hours and 6 hours in the preceding 90 days and 30 days respectively, in the accident airplane.


The airplane was a 1975 year model Rockwell Commander 112A. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-C1D6 engine which developed 200 horse power at takeoff. There was no record of an engine overhaul. The total airplane and engine times at the accident were 2223 hours. The last annual inspection was conducted on October 2, 1993. The airplane had flown 48 hours since the inspection. According to FAA records, the pilot had owned this airplane for 3 1/2 years.

The airplane was last refueled (topped to 68 gallons) at Courtland Airport, Courtland, New York, then positioned to Chenango Bridge (30 NM). The estimated fuel burn for the flight was 8 gallons.

Following is a estimated weight summary of the accident flight:

Airplane 1778.5 Oil 15 Pilot 160 Passenger 130 Baggage 100 ============================= Zero Fuel Weight 2183.5 Fuel 60 gallons 360 ============================= Estimated Takeoff Wt 2543.5

The maximum allowable takeoff gross weight was 2650 lbs.


The temperature at Binghamton Airport, 5 miles northwest of the accident site was 80 degrees fahrenheit at 1350 and again at 1450. Following is the 1350 observation at Binghamton:

3,600 Scattered, 25,000 Thin Overcast, Temperature 80 F, Dewpoint 64 F, Winds from 210 degrees at 12 knots, Altimeter 29.96 in/hg.


Chenango Bridge was a private airport with no services or ATC facilities. The airport had an elevation of 940 feet. According to the FAA Form 5010, runway 27 was 2000 feet long. Examination of the turf runway on the day of the accident found it firm, with grass 1 to 2 inches tall, and with a rolling surface.

Obstructions in the form of 50 foot tall trees were located 350 feet beyond the departure end of runway 27. No obstructions were on the departure end of runway 9.


The airplane was examined at the accident site on August 20, and 21, 1994. The airplane first struck trees approximately 50 feet high. When viewed from the departure end of runway 27, one tree had been flattened on the top. Broken branches were found at the base of the tree. The next contact was a row of fir trees in a residence back yard. The airplane passed through them and struck the ground in an approximate 30 degree nose low, 15 degree right wing low attitude. The nose of the airplane was 10 feet beyond the ground impact scar and the airplane was pointing in the general direction it came from (050 degrees).

A crush line was visible on the left side of the fuselage forward of the left cabin door. The angle was approximately 40 degrees. The control yoke on the left side was broken off and the control shaft extended through the panel. Several of the radios and instruments were broken loose from their mountings and were held in place by their connecting cables.

The propeller flange was partially separated. Chord wise scratches were present on the front surfaces of both propeller blades. The tips of both blades were bent in a rearward direction.

Eucalyptus leaves were found on the top of the engine and they continued back toward the firewall. The engine mounts were partially broken and the engine was separated from the airframe for further examination. Fuel was found in the lines between the fuselage, electric boost pump, engine driven pump, fuel control unit, and fuel injection manifold. All fuel samples were clear, bright, and free of contamination. All engine control linkages were intact and tight. Valve train and accessory continuity was verified with engine rotation. Compression was found in all cylinders. The oil filter and engine sump oil screen were examined and found to be free of contamination.

Flight control continuity was verified between the rudder control horn and the rudder pedals, between the ailerons and the control yokes, and between the elevators and the control yoke. The vertical stabilizer and elevators had separated from the aft fuselage. The control rod on top of the rudder control horn had pulled out of the rudder.

The leading edge of both wings were bent in an upward direction. Crushing was more visible on the left wing than the right wing. Branches from the poplar trees were imbedded in the leading edge of the left wing. Both fuel tanks were ruptured and there was a fuel spill. There was no fire. The left wing flap was bent under the wing and its pre-impact position was not determined. The right wing flap was extended approximately 20 degrees. The flap control lever was found in the neutral position.


An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Claude Cornwall, Pathologist and Coroners Physician, for Broome County, New York on August 21, 1994.

Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results were negative for drugs and alcohol.


According to a letter from the FAA, "There was not a certification requirement to conduct or publish takeoff distance data in the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) (based on the maximum gross weight of less than 6,000 pounds)."

However, takeoff data was found in the Manufacturer's Data section for two flap settings. One was 10 degrees and the other was 20 degrees. Both takeoffs charts were predicated upon full power prior to brake release, and liftoff and initial climb at designated speeds. Additionally, the performance charts were set up for paved, dry, level runways. No performance charts were found for takeoff on a grass surface, or for weights less than gross weight conditions.

When the FAA was queried about takeoff distances for soft/grass runway, they replied:

There was not a requirement to publish soft/grass field takeoff distance data since standard takeoff data was not required. As a note, there has not been a requirement to determine and publish soft/grass field takeoff data for any U.S. certified airplanes. This is primarily due to the very wide variety of runway conditions that this type of data would be applicable to. Soft/grass field takeoff data has been published as manufacturers data, completely at the option of the manufacturer, to account for these conditions. This data was reviewed and "accepted" by the FAA, but not reviewed with the same vigor as the required information in an AFM that is FAA "approved."

Soft/grass field takeoff data charts have been found in the more recent models of some single engine airplanes manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company. With these airplanes, the ground run distance is increased by 15 percent. No other reference was found for computing ground run on soft/grass surface runways.

Using the Rockwell 112A manufacturers data, the following takeoff distance were computed:

Temperature 80 F (27 C) Elevation 940 feet Weight 2650 lbs Hard Surface runway Winds Calm

For Flaps 10 degrees:

Ground Run 1680 feet Distance to Clear 50 Ft Obstacle 2280 feet

For Flaps 20 degrees:

Ground Run 1420 feet Distance to Clear 50 Ft Obstacle 1920 feet

At the bottom of each takeoff chart, the following notation was found, "Allowance must be made for wet runways, grass or sod runway, or other actual associated conditions which may differ from those above." No data was found in the flight manual, nor was it required to be in the flight manual, for additional takeoff distances required when using non-hard surfaced runways.

When the Safety Board completed its on-scene investigation on August 21, 1994, the New York State Police were notified. They removed the wreckage and placed it in an automotive impound yard pending contact with the insurance company. They in turn released the airplane to the insurance adjustor, Peter J. McBreen and Associates, Inc, of Madison, New Jersey.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.