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N1460D accident description

Massachusetts map... Massachusetts list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Leominster, MA
42.525091°N, 71.759794°W
Tail number N1460D
Accident date 11 Feb 1999
Aircraft type Cessna 170A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On February 11, 1999, about 1415 eastern standard time, a Cessna 170A, N1460D, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in Leominster, Massachusetts, during an approach to the Fitchburg Municipal Airport (FIT), Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight which departed FIT. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A witness observed the airplane on approach to runway 32. In a written statement, he stated:

"...I noticed the plane coming in over the railroad tracks. The plane was below the tree tops. It looked to me like he was going to hit the top of the trees, then the engine started revving as if he had gunned it, noticing he was to low. It looked like he was trying to get over [the trees] but at the same time or maybe two seconds later his left wing hit one of the tree's. The plane was pulled to the left bouncing around in the trees, one tree kind of kicked the tail of the plane up sending it into a nose dive straight down...."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 42 degrees, 32 minutes north latitude, and 71 degrees, 44 minutes west longitude.


The 80-year old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land. He reported 1,650 hours of total flight experience on his last application for a Federal Aviation Administration Second Class Medical Certificate, which was issued on September 15, 1998.

The pilot's logbook was found at the accident site. According to the logbook, the pilot's total flight experience was about 1,660 hours. The pilot logged 28.5 total flight hours in 1997, and about 11.5 hours in 1998. The pilot's last recorded flight was on October 17, 1998. Individuals at the airport where the airplane was hangared, stated they believed the pilot last flew the airplane "around Thanksgiving."


Review of the airplane's logbooks revealed it had received an annual inspection on September 7, 1998, at a tachometer time of 457.17 hours. The tachometer reading at the accident site indicated the airplane had been flown for 5.4 hours since the annual inspection.


A weather observation for FIT, taken at 1452, reported: Winds calm; Visibility 10 statue miles; Sky clear; Temperature 48 degrees F; Dewpoint 10 degrees F; Altimeter 30.21.


There were no known communications with the airplane.


On scene examination of wreckage revealed the airplane impacted near the tops of about 75 foot tall trees and came to rest inverted on a magnetic bearing of 40 degrees, about 1/2 mile from the approach end of Runway 32.

All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident scene. The left wing leading edge sustained compression damage, which began about 2 feet from the wing root, and extended outboard. The damage increased progressively towards the wingtip area. The left wingtip was found on the railroad tracks, about 100 feet southeast of the main wreckage. A 1 foot portion of the left wing and left aileron was found suspended in trees located about 70 feet from the main wreckage. The right wing sustained minor damage.

Several tree branches of various diameters up to about 7 inches were found broken at the accident site. Some of the branches had fresh cuts with red paint transfer.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to all primary control surfaces.

The engine was displaced upward and crushed back toward the firewall. The engine was rotated by hand using the propeller which remained attached to the hub. One propeller blade was bent forward slightly and had a curled tip with a leading edge gouge. The other propeller was bent rearward almost 90 degrees, about 6 inches from the hub. Thumb compression and valve train continuity was confirmed to all cylinders. All spark plugs were removed, their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. Both the left and right magnetos produced spark when rotated. Additionally, fuel was found in the carburetor bowl and the fuel was absent of contamination.

The airplane's restraint system included an inertia reel, part number 2B25BIY-15, manufactured by Pacific Scientific Company, Anaheim, California. The inertia reel was not installed at the time of the airplane's manufacture. Examination of the airplane's maintenance records did not reveal any documentation pertaining to the installation of an inertia reel.

The inertia reel was manufactured with two mounting brackets, with provisions for four mounting fasteners. According to a representative of Pacific Scientific Company, installation instructions are not available. The person or entity, who performed an installation, was responsible for obtaining approval for installation based on the manner it was installed. On the accident airplane, the inertia reel was mounted onto a plate, which was attached to the roof of the cabin by one center bolt.

The inertia reel was found separated from the cabin roof. The center bolt was bent, and damage to the roof of the cabin was consistent with the bolt being pulled into the cabin.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on February 12, 1999, by Dr. Jennifer Lipman, of the Chief Medical Examiners Office, Boston, Massachusetts.

The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.


The airplane wreckage was released on February 16, 1999, to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain the proper altitude during the approach.

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