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N6234E accident description

Connecticut map... Connecticut list
Crash location 41.950000°N, 72.983330°W
Nearest city Barkhamsted, CT
41.929263°N, 72.972326°W
1.5 miles away
Tail number N6234E
Accident date 06 Apr 1996
Aircraft type Cessna 172
Additional details: White/Blue

NTSB Factual Report

HISTORY OF FLIGHT On April 6, 1996 at 2030 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172, N6234E, impacted the terrain in Barkhamsted, Connecticut. The certificated private pilot/registered owner, the flight instructor rated passenger and another passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. Marginal night visual meteorological conditions existed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight departed from Columbia County Airport, Hudson, New York, with an intended destination of Skylark Airpark, Warehouse Point, Connecticut, where the airplane was based.

The private pilot/owner, accompanied by two friends, one a private pilot and the other a certificated flight instructor, flew the accident airplane earlier that day in an attempt to trouble shoot what the owner stated was an electrical problem. The electrical problem, as relayed by the private pilot, was with the landing light turned on airborne, the fuse was too hot to touch and the circuit breaker was not popping. During this flight, the private pilot stated that he noticed that the artificial horizon was not functioning and told the owner "that he should have that fixed." The private pilot stated that the owner replied that the airplane was due for its annual inspection the following week and the mechanic would look at it. After the flight, the owner approached the airport manager and discussed the artificial horizon problem. The airport manager stated that he advised the airplane owner that he should either take the instrument out of the airplane or cover it up. The airport manager also stated that he reminded the airplane owner that if he took the instrument out of the airplane, he needed to cap the line in order for the other instruments to function properly. The airport manager stated that he remembered the airplane owner coming back up to him and stating that he was not going to remove the instrument from the airplane and was just going to wait until the annual inspection. The airport manager stated that to his knowledge, the airplane was not certified nor instrumented for IFR flight.

An afternoon flight to Columbia County Airport had been planned in two other airplanes for that day. One of those airplanes was owned by the private pilot friend who had flown on the flight to look at the electrical problem. After the flight to look at the electrical problem, the private pilot stated that he did not have room in his airplane that afternoon for the flight instructor friend. The flight instructor, then approached the owner of the Cessna 172 with the electrical problem, to ask if he was interested in making the flight to Columbia County Airport and make it a three airplane trip, instead of just the two originally planned. A witness stated that the owner of the plane did not think it would be wise to take his airplane because of the equipment problems as well as the forecasted weather. The witnessed recalled that the flight instructor stated that they would have no problem landing without landing lights and if they experienced bad weather they could fly the valleys at 1500 feet. The witness stated that the owner again indicated his concern about making the trip because of his aircraft's problems. As the witness was departing the airport that afternoon, he stated that he saw the owner again and asked if he was going on the trip. The owner stated that he was. The witness stated that he then asked if the owner had been talked into it by the flight instructor. The witness stated that the owner's response was in the affirmative.

The private pilot friend stated that the flight to Columbia County Airport in the daylight was not a problem and had been done on previous occasions with the same three airplanes. The private pilot stated that the owner of the Cessna 172 and the flight instructor did not mention any problems at the restaurant during their meal. The three pilots of the airplanes decided that the airplanes would take off in order of their speed, with the fastest airplane departing first. The private pilot witness stated that the Cessna 172 took off last and that the weather did not appear to be a problem although the ceiling was lower at their destination than at Columbia County Airport. The private pilot went on to explain that because of the difference in the speed of the airplanes and the order in which they took off, there normally was five to ten miles of separation between the airplanes as they approached their destination.

The private pilot witness stated that the pilot of the lead airplane, announced on the radio that he had encountered snow squalls, and since he had his instrument rating, he was going to fly an instrument approach to a nearby controlled airport, and when he broke out of the clouds he would fly VFR to the destination. The first pilot recommended to the other two pilots that they deviate their flight path to the south in order to remain clear of the snow squall and stay VFR. The second pilot stated that he acknowledged the first pilot's suggestion and relayed it to the third pilot in the Cessna 172. The second pilot stated that when he radioed the third pilot concerning the deviation to the south, the flight instructor passenger answered the radio and stated that they were having a problem. The second pilot stated that when he asked what the problem was, he did not clearly hear the reply and could not state what the problem was. The second pilot, not knowing what the problem was, recommended that the third pilot switch to approach control in order to get assistance. When the third airplane radioed approach control, the recorded tape has the flight instructor doing the talking as identified by the second pilot. On the tape, the flight instructor made the statement that he would like assistance and that the airplane had experienced attitude gyro failure. On the tape, after some initial problem of identifying the third airplane and its location, the controller assigned a squawk and gave a heading to their destination. Within five minutes, radar contact was lost with the third airplane. The wreckage of the airplane was located early the next morning in the vicinity of where radar contact was lost.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION The private pilot obtained his private license on October 22, 1994, for airplane single engine land. The pilot was the registered owner of the airplane. The pilot had a total of approximately 250 flight hours and possessed a current third class medical with no limitations, dated May 14, 1994.

The logbooks of the flight instructor rated passenger were not found. On the flight instructor's application for a second class medical dated January 23, 1996, the Total Pilot Time (Civilian Only) for block number 14, marked "To Date" and block number 15, marked "Past 6 Months" were filled in with 11,283+ and 145+ respectively. On the same application, block number 11, marked "Occupation", was filled in with Pilot/Duster. One witness interviewed stated that the flight instructor had a couple of private pilot students. Another witness interviewed after the accident could not recall the flight instructor having flown in instrument weather and went on to stated that since he was an agriculture pilot, most, if not all of his flying was done in VFR conditions. All witnesses interview were unable to state whether the flight instructor was instrument current.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION The airplane's airframe and engine logbooks could not be located. A witness interviewed stated that the airplane was due the next week for its annual inspection. Another witness stated that he had flown with the owner earlier that day and that the owner knew that the attitude gyro was not functioning and that the landing light fuse was heating up and not activating the circuit breaker. A witness stated that the owner had stated that the problems were going to be looked at during the annual inspection.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS The weather conditions for Bradley International Airport at 0125 Zulu; 2600 overcast, measured 4400 broken, visibility: 10 miles, temperature: 42 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint: 31 degrees Fahrenheit, winds: from 100 degrees magnetic at 8 knots, altimeter: was 30.01 inches of mercury. At 0156 Zulu; measured 2600 scattered, 3100 broken, visibility: 10 miles, temperature: 42 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint: 32 degrees Fahrenheit, winds: 100 degrees magnetic at 8 knots, altimeter: 30.02 inches of mercury. The weather relayed by one of the pilots was 5000 feet and 8 nm visibility at Columbia and 2500 feet and 10 nm visibility at their destination.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION The airplane impacted in a swampy area approximately 20 miles west of the intended destination. The fuselage of the airplane had been destroyed. The engine, completely separated from the airframe, was submerged in approximately three to four feet of water and embedded in the muddy bottom. The wreckage was removed from the remote location by helicopter and loaded onto a flat bed truck to be transported to a local hangar for further examination.

Of note, the mechanical flap handle was found with the flaps in a fully extended position. The push rods on each flap were found buckled with the flaps down approximately 30 degrees.

The engine was a Continental O-300 A, S/N 15514-D-2-A-R, sustained heavy impact damage. The propeller remained attached to the mounting flange. The carburetor was detached and recovered later. Much of the intake and exhaust manifold was missing. The starter, alternator and oil filter were missing. The left magneto was detached from the case; the right magneto was still in place. The spark plugs were removed and found to be in good condition. The propeller was removed and the engine rotated by use of a crowbar. With the #5 cylinder exhaust pushrod missing, the engine rotated for approximately 180 degrees before a cam lobe bound against a bent pushrod. A large quantity of mud was found in cylinders #2 and #4 and no evidence of internal failure or discrepancy was noted with the engine.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION Autopsies were performed on both the private pilot and the certificated flight instructor by Edward T. McDonough, M.D., Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, Connecticut on 08 April 1996.

Toxicology reports were done on both with negative results in the specimens sent to the Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory of the Federal Aviation Administration located at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

TEST AND RESEARCH The attitude gyroscope and the relief valve for the venturi system was taken to the Office of Research and Engineering, Materials Laboratory Division at the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C. The housing of the attitude indictor was opened and the gyroscopic assembly (gyro) was removed. The housing of the gyroscope was intact. The gyro was opened and the rotating mass appeared to be in its normal position. No marks or other features indicating contact were detected on either surface, the housing or the rotating mass. No abnormalities were found in respect to the relief valve.

The airplane wreckage was released to the Phoenix Aviation Managers, Inc. on April 10, 1996

NTSB Probable Cause

the CFI pilot/passenger's poor judgment which led to spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control of the airplane. Factors involved in this accident were the night marginal visual flight conditions and continuing flight with a known nonfunctioning artificial horizon.

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