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N7604G accident description

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Tail numberN7604G
Accident dateApril 25, 2006
Aircraft typeCessna 172L
LocationMontgomery Twp, PA
Near 39.733611 N, -77.970278 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 25, 2006, about 1400 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172L, N7604G, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain in a remote mountainous area of Montgomery Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick, Maryland. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

Radar information provided by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center indicated that the airplane initially departed Montgomery County Airport (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland, at 1210, and landed at Frederick about 1240. The airplane then took off from Frederick at 1317, and proceeded northwest until crossing the Pennsylvania border. It then turned left and reentered Maryland, before making a right turn, back north into Pennsylvania. The last radar contact, at 1357, indicated the airplane was on a westerly heading, at 2,300 feet, between two converging mountain ridges in an area known locally as "The Punchbowl." There was no radar contact below the rim of The Punchbowl, and there were no witnesses to the accident. Maximum altitude during the flight was approximately 3,200 feet.

The final destination of the pilot was unknown. According to a witness, the pilot would typically depart Gaithersburg, and first proceed to Frederick, where he would make two or three landings, then stop for coffee or lunch. The pilot would then fly to Carol County Airport (DMW), Westminster, Maryland, and make two or three more landings before returning to Gaithersburg. Westminster was about 20 nautical miles to the northeast of Frederick, and Gaithersburg was about 15 nautical miles to the southeast. The accident site was about 45 nautical miles to the northwest of Frederick.

The accident occurred during daylight hours, in the vicinity of 39 degrees, 44.01 minutes north latitude, 77 degrees, 58.22 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. The pilot's logbook was not recovered; however, on his latest FAA third class medical certificate application, dated April 20, 2006, the pilot reported 1,380 hours of flight time, with 4.8 hours flown in the previous 6 months.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The airplane was operated by the Congressional Flying Club, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland. According to a Club logbook, after another pilot flew it for 1.2 hours earlier on the accident date, he filled the airplane with 22.3 gallons of fuel. When the accident pilot signed out the airplane, he noted a tachometer reading of 474.4 hours in the logbook.

According to maintenance logbooks, the airplane, which was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2D engine, had a 50-hour inspection on April 1, 2006. At that time, the airplane had accumulated 5,041 hours of operation, and the engine had accumulated 446 hours of operation since major overhaul.

The airplane had accumulated 5,076 hours of operation at the time of the accident.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Weather, reported at an airport about 12 miles to the east-southeast, at 1353, included visibility 10 miles, clear skies, winds from 230 degrees at 6 knots, temperature 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.77 inches Hg.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was located on April 30, 2006, at an elevation of about 950 feet, on the northeast face of Cross Mountain. Cross Mountain, which rose to an elevation of about 2,000 feet, defined the southwestern side of the three-sided Punchbowl, which was open to the northeast. The floor of The Punchbowl varied in elevation, averaging about 600 feet.

An approximately 100-foot wreckage path began in a tree, about 80 feet above the ground, and continued in a downward angle of approximately 10 degrees, for about 100 feet, on a 220-degree heading. The slope of the ground beneath the wreckage path varied between an estimated 30 and 45 degrees.

All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident scene. Except for some cable breaks consistent with overload, control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to all flight control surfaces.

No fuel was found at the scene; however, the fuel tanks and the fuel lines to the carburetor were breached. When a tarp that been laying on the ground overnight was lifted, there was a strong odor of fuel.

One of the propeller blades exhibited s-bending, leading edge damage, and chordwise scratching. The other propeller blade exhibited chordwise scratching. There was also rotational scoring on the starter housing, as well as on the alternator cooling fan face.

The heat muff was examined, with no discrepancies noted.

Engine crankshaft continuity was confirmed, as was compression to all but the number 1 cylinder, which was impact-damaged.

There were no recording devices on the airplane. The tachometer indicated 475.9 hours and the altimeter setting was 29.77.

MEDICAL AND TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot at Forensic Pathology Associates, Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania. Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A review of medical records revealed that the pilot had two previous, possible suicide attempts, although he maintained that he had not actually intended suicide in either case. After the second incident, a neuropsychologist noted the possibility of "dyscontrol" issues. Evaluations of the pilot did not reveal any other evidence of significant depression or suicidal intentions, and a psychiatrist's note little more than a year before the accident indicated that the pilot was doing well with monthly psychotherapy, and was on no psychiatric medications.

The pilot also had a history of emphysema with reduced lung function and mild hypoxia at rest without any altitude exposure. The FAA was aware of the history, and the pilot's medical certificate included a restriction that he was not permitted to fly above 7,999 feet. Two months prior to the accident, the pilot's pulmonologist noted that the pilot had a resting hemoglobin saturation of 94% and that he was active with no significant limitations on his endurance. Shortly after the pilot's most recent application for medical certificate (less than 1 week prior to the accident), the FAA sent a letter (dated the day following the accident) to the pilot requesting substantial additional testing with regard to his emphysema.

The pilot's autopsy noted coronary artery disease with 85% stenosis of one of the coronary arteries, and anthracosis (blackening of the lungs). There were no notations of any other potentially impairing or incapacitating preexisting disease. There was no specific indication of previous stroke. The brain had sustained significant trauma, and a microscopic brain evaluation was not performed. The heart had sustained extensive traumatic injury.

According to witnesses who saw the pilot on the day of the accident, there were no outward signs of depression. The pilot acted normally toward those who spoke with him, except for one individual, who noted that after making a comment to the pilot, he expected a "normal comeback," but received a "blank stare" instead.

According to family members, there was nothing to indicate the pilot was suffering from depression at the time of the accident. One son, who was very familiar with the earlier possible suicide attempts, stated that the circumstances surrounding them were not present at the time of the accident. The son also noted that the pilot had recently received a ham radio license, and that he had helped the pilot build a long-wire antenna. The pilot had also recently purchased additional radio equipment, which arrived "just after" the accident.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On July 2, 2007, the wreckage was released to a representative of the flying club's insurance company.

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