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N75137 accident description

Massachusetts map... Massachusetts list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Dalton, MA
42.458418°N, 73.149547°W
Tail number N75137
Accident date 03 Jun 1998
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-181
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On June 3, 1998, at 1042 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N75137, operated by Oconto Blue Skies Inc. (a flying club) was destroyed after the right wing separated and subsequent impact with terrain near Dalton, Massachusetts. The certificated private pilot, a pilot rated passenger, and a passenger sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated from Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD), Norwood, Massachusetts, destined for Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG), Niagara Falls, New York. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed and activated.

The Bridgeport Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) received a call, at 0540, by a person using the call sign N75137. A review of the transcript revealed that the caller was briefed on AIRMET tango for occasional moderated turbulence and the presence of instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions from Norwood to the Hudson River Valley. The briefer added that VFR flight would not be recommend.

The Bridgeport AFSS received another call, at 0833, by a person using the call sign N75137. The transcript revealed that the briefer asked, " can do this IFR if you have to." The caller responded, "No VFR." The briefer then provided the following information, "...through southern vermont...albany area out to syracuse and utica they're all running between twenty five hundred to three thousand feet broken to overcast tops about seven thousand feet...looking for...occasional moderate turbulence below eight thousand feet...I've got...a couple of reports in the boston area, seems to be moderate...turbulence right up through the cloud layers and up to about...fourteen thousand feet..."

The briefer continued, " I don't...really know where you want to go from here did you want to continue?" The caller responded "no that's good." The briefer added, " glad to go further with you I just don't." The caller answered "yeah that's just it doesn't yeah it just doesn't sound very good."

A witness stated that he heard the caller (the "daughter" of the pilot) on the phone getting the weather briefing. The witness also heard the daughter discussing that weather briefing with "her father."

The witness stated:

"At the completion of her briefing her father asked some questions about the weather....She couldn't answer some of the questions he asked, stating she didn't get a complete briefing because what she had heard so far sounded bad enough that she didn't see the point in continuing the briefing."

The witness added, "Her tone was nervous and anxious." The witness also stated, "The only statement the daughter made that I remember exactly was 'It is not something I feel comfortable with but...' clearly deferring to her fathers judgement."

The Bridgeport AFSS provided a third weather briefing at 0840, to a person using the call sign N75137. This was the last weather briefing given to anyone using that call sign. "Yeah bridgeport archer seven five one three seven...we've had a personal briefing and uh looks like we're going to have a change in pilots here.... I just want the tops..."

The airplane departed Norwood about 0930, and proceeded west toward Albany, New York. About 1030, N75137 contacted Albany Approach Control for radar traffic advisories. After two-way communication was established, a transponder code of 3470 was assigned, and radar services were provided. Prior to the accident, Albany did not receive any reports that N75137 was experiencing difficulties.

Approximately 3 miles to the north of Dalton, at 1042, radar data showed the target squawking 3470 at 6,500 feet msl on a ground track of 305 degrees. Twenty-three seconds later, the target was on a ground track of 248 degrees at an altitude of 6,500 feet msl. In another 9 seconds, the ground track changed to 185 degrees, and the altitude changed to 6,200 feet msl. In the next and final 5 seconds of radar data, the target's ground track changed to 145 degrees, and its altitude change from 6,200 to 5,600 feet msl.

A witness, approximately 1 mile from the accident site, reported the airplane sounded like it was in a steep dive, "like at an airshow". The witness added that he saw the airplane coming out of the clouds in a spin with pieces coming off it. Other witnesses reported hearing an increase in engine noise, and seeing the right wing "just fold back."

The accident happened during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located, 42 degrees 30.01 minutes north latitude, 73 degrees 09.32 minutes west longitude, and approximately 1,550 feet msl.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. He was issued a FAA third class medical on February 3, 1997. His logbook was not recovered, but on his last application for a third class medical he reported 350.0 hours of flight experience.

The pilot rated passenger, the daughter of the pilot, held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. She also was not instrument rated. She was issued a third class FAA medical on December 30, 1996. Her logbook reflected the following flight experience, 3.1 hours of night, 0.7 hours of simulated instruments, and 0.0 hours of actual instruments. Her total flight experience was 90.2 hours.


At 1056, Albany, New York, was reporting winds 300 degrees at 18 knots, gust 24 knots, 10 miles of visibility, 4,500 feet Broken, 5,000 feet overcast, temperature 51 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 36 degrees Fahrenheit and an altimeter setting of 29.66 inches of mercury.

In a written statement, a Massachusetts state police helicopter pilot, that flew to the site, reported strong up and down drafts in the vicinity of the site. On several occasions, the gusts were strong enough to require a reduction in torque to prevent retreating blade stall.

At the time of the accident, the pilot of a Cessna 210M was approximately 5 miles to the south of the accident site. He reported instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) at both 8,000 feet msl and 6,000 feet msl. He observed that occasionally it looked lighter below. He even caught a glimpse of a lower cloud deck, and then the ground, but it was "very hazy." In the Albany area he estimated the ceiling was 3,000 feet broken to overcast.

The pilot added that in the vicinity of the Chester VOR, he slowed his airplane from 140 knots indicated airspeed (IAS) to 120 knots of IAS for about 5 minutes because of turbulence.


On June 4, 1998, the wreckage was examined at the accident site. The airplane's left wing, fuselage, engine, and tail section were next to a 70 foot tree that had freshly broken branches at its top and scrape marks down its side. The airplane came to rest on a heading of 269 degrees magnetic, on a down slope that measured 15 degrees. The airplane's right wing and left horizontal stabilator were found approximately 1 mile to the east of the main wreckage. Clothing, small piece of airframe, and insulation were found between the right wing and the main wreckage.

The fuel selector was set approximately 3 degrees past the right fuel tank position. The right fuel tank had approximately 15 gallons of fuel. The left fuel tank was compromised, but the ground around the tank smelled of fuel.

Because of impact damage to the cabin floor, instrument panel and fire wall, flight control continuity could only be established to the front of the pilot's seat.

From the top of windscreen to a point 4 feet aft, the roof of the cabin was twisted from right to left, approximately 145 degrees. Aft of that point, the roof was missing, and approximately 2 feet aft the cabin, the empennage separated from the fuselage.

The engine was partially attached to its mounts, and buried under approximately 2 feet of dirt. Only the left rear cylinder was visible before the engine was excavated. In addition, the engine was resting 40 degrees nose down and 30 degrees to the right.

The left wing separated from the fuselage, but the control cables were still attached, and had cut into the supporting structure of the fuselage, and wing. The cut marks on the wing were approximately 3 inches long, and the cut marks on the fuselage were approximately 4 inches long. The wing was compressed chord-wise with multiple impact marks along its leading edge. The aileron bell-crank was ripped off its mount and had migrated approximately 4 feet inboard.

Flap attachment bearings on both wings were broken or missing. Where the bearings were missing, the housing were dark in color.

On the right wing, the inboard flap had a 1/2 inch wide dent running approximately two feet span-wise, and located approximately 6 inches from the leading edge of the flap. The right wing aft attaching bolt was missing, but the hole was elongated, and shinny.

The right stabilator spar was bent back 90 degrees. No cycle marks on either the elevator or rudder stops were observed. Elevator trim was approximately neutral and the elevator trim cable was pulled off the spool.

On June 4, 1998, the airplane and engine were moved from the accident site to a Massachusetts highway maintenance facility in Dalton, Massachusetts for further examination.


On June 24, 1998, an autopsy was preformed on the pilot, pilot rated passenger, and the passenger at Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

A toxicological test was performed on the pilot and pilot rated passenger by the Federal Aviation Administrations Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


On June 5,1998, the fracture surfaces for both wings, the carry-through spar, and the empennage were examined. These fractures were textured (similar in look and feel to sand paper). They were also bent, and angled along the sheer. In addition, the main carry-through spar was bowed up approximately 6/10 of an inch when view from the rear of the airplane. The apex of the bow was 21 1/2 inches inboard from the left wing's inboard most spar bolt and 12 inches from the right wing's inboard most spar bolt. The right side of the carry-through spar was also bent rearward approximately 3/10 of an inch. Bolt to bolt distance on the carry-through spar was 33 1/2.

On June 5, 1998, the engine, was examined at the Massachusetts highway maintenance facility in Dalton, Massachusetts. The engine was equipped with a Sensenich Corporation propeller. The propeller was attached to the engine crankshaft and displayed "S" bending, cord-wise scratching, and leading edge gouging.

The left magneto was in place and broken. The right magneto was in place and broken. The oil filter adapter housing was broken off its mount. In addition, the carburetor was broken off its mounts, but the engine controls were still attached and control continuity was established. Also, the fuel line was still attached to the carburetor.

Valve train continuity was established. The number one cylinder's push rods and shroud were bent. The number one exhaust value was held open and no compression was obtained on that cylinder. The remaining three cylinders developed compression, and the accessory gears rotated when the crankshaft was rotated. When operated by hand, the fuel pump pumped fluid when the intake line was submerged in water.

The number one cylinder cooling fins were impacted with dirt, and bent toward the engine block. The alternator was attached to its mount, and imbedded with dirt and debris.


On June 6, 1998 the wreckage was released to Ryan Insurance Inc., 254 U.S. Route 1, P.O. Box 1348, Scarborough, Maine 04070-1348.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's decision to continue the flight into instrument meteorological conditions, resulting in a loss of control, and airplane stress limits to be exceeded. Factors in the accident, the pilot's decision to disregard the preflight weather briefing, and his lack of instrument flight certification.

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