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N704ZY accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Worthington, MA
42.383420°N, 72.949543°W
Tail number N704ZY
Accident date 02 Aug 1998
Aircraft type Cessna 150M
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 2, 1998, about 1600 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150M, N704ZY, was destroyed when it struck the ground in Worthington, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local aerial observation flight. The flight had departed from Barnes Municipal Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts, about 1515. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The purpose of the flight was to take aerial photographs of an outdoor concert, which was taking place at a lower level than the surrounding tree, covered hills.

The pilot contacted Westfield Ground Control, reported that he had information XRAY, and requested to taxi. The pilot was instructed to taxi to runway 20 for an intersection departure. When the pilot reported he was ready for takeoff, he was cleared for takeoff on runway 20, at 1513:52.

At 1515:18, the local controller inquired whether the pilot wanted a left or right turn out. The pilot relied at 1515:21, and requested a right turn. This was approved, and no further communications were heard from the airplane.

Two witnesses at the bottom of the hill where the accident occurred observed the airplane. They saw it make two circles over the hill, the second one lower than the first one. Both witnesses reported that the airplane disappeared from view prior to the accident, and that the engine was running normally prior to the impact.

Another witness near the top of the hill reported that she heard the engine sputtering and then silence. She called 911. She did not observe the airplane.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 42 degrees, 20.24 minutes north latitude and 72 degrees, 53.34 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. He was issued a Third Class, Federal Aviation Administration Airman Medical Certificate on July 21, 1997, with a limitation of, "HOLDER SHALL WEAR LENSES THAT CORRECT FOR DISTANT VISION AND POSSESS GLASSES THAT CORRECT FOR NEAR VISION.

According to the pilot's logbook, he had logged a total of 659 hours, with 622 hours in make and model. He had logged 6 hours in the preceding 90 days, and 1 hour in the preceding 30 days.


According to records from Charis Air, the airplane was last refueled on August 2, 1998 with 19.9 gallons of 80/87 aviation grade gasoline. After the refueling, the airplane flew .7 hour prior to being flown on the accident flight.


The closest meteorological reporting point to the accident site was the Barnes-Westfield Airport. At 1545, the temperature and dewpoint were recorded as 28 C and 10 C respectively.


The accident site was the side of a tree covered hill. The airplane had struck the top of a tree about 75 feet above the ground, and knocked out several branches. Scrape marks were visible on an adjoining tree, and continued down the side of the tree for over 50 feet. The airplane was found about 10 feet forward of the tree.

Three pieces of cut wood were found at the base of the tree with scrape marks. The cut pieces of wood measured 12 inches in length and were cut on an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The cut surface on two of the pieces measured 4 inches each, while the other one was measured at 3 inches on each end.

A check of the ground along the path the airplane came from failed to find any other evidence of broken branches or airplane parts other than those previously mentioned.

The airplane was on its left side, on crowned terrain. The high point of the crown occurred just behind the cockpit, where the fuselage was split. The left wing was crushed inward on the outboard 1 foot, and rearward along the leading edge for its length. The outboard tip of the right wing was curled down. The empenage was bent down just forward of the horizontal stabilizers. The wing flaps were extended about 20 degrees.

Fight control continuity was confirmed between the cockpit controls for the rudder, ailerons, elevator, and their respective control surfaces.

Fuel was found in the wing tanks, and the fuel line between the fuel sump, and the carburetor. The throttle and mixture controls were in the full forward position, and the carburetor heat was partially extended. Examination of the top spark plugs revealed that two were covered with soot, while one was gray in appearance, and one was oil covered.

Examination of the carburetor revealed that fuel was in the bowl, and it was absent of contamination. The accelerator pump squirted fuel into the venturi, and the single piece venturi was in place.

On August 5, 1998, the airplane was removed from the accident site and taken to Barnes Municipal Airport. The fuselage was secured to a trailer, and the engine started. Takeoff power was achieved and sustained with no sputtering or hesitation observed.


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

Autopsies were conducted by Loren Mednick, MD, from the Massachusetts Regional Medical Examiner's office in Springfield, Massachusetts. The autopsy on the pilot was conducted on August 3, 1998, and on the passenger on August 4, 1994.


During the investigation, it was noted that the cockpit primer control was seated full in, but was in an unlocked position. On August 4, 1998, a test was conducted with another Cessna 150M, N45189, to determine the effect of an unlocked primer. The test consisted of ground runs at various power setting, with and without carburetor heat, and then unlocking the primer. At no time was it possible to determine when the primer was unlocked.

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had received several flights toward the issuance of his instrument rating, but had not completed the instruction. An interview with the flight instructor who had instructed him revealed that the pilot had experienced difficulty with multiple tasking. The flight instructor reported that as an example when the pilot concentrated on his altitude, his heading would wander. If the pilot focused on his heading, his altitude would wander.

In an interview, the Chief Pilot of Charis Aviation reported that when he gave the pilot his last flight review in November 1996, the pilot experienced difficulty with multiple tasking. The pilot would concentrate on one task, to the detriment of other tasks. This became noticeable when the pilot was inbound to land and he missed radio calls from the control tower that were directed to him. The Chief Pilot further added that he gave the pilot additional dual instruction and at the end of the 1.8 hour flight, the pilot was safe for solo flight.

The photographer was seated in the right seat and had full access to functioning dual flight controls. The power controls were located on the lower center instrument panel between the two pilot seats.

The investigation revealed that on an aerial photography flight the pilot must divide his time between control of the airplane and taking direction from the photographer. Factors that would affect the control of the airplane would include the magnitude of the requests from the photographer, and the pilot's level of proficiency.

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Bob Fry, the President of Charis Air on August 5, 1998.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain airspeed due to diverted attention.

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