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N30491 accident description

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Crash location 40.861944°N, 74.048055°W
Nearest city South Hackensack, NJ
40.861211°N, 74.045418°W
0.1 miles away
Tail number N30491
Accident date 02 Sep 2005
Aircraft type Cessna 177A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On September 2, 2005, at 2122 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177A, N30491, was substantially damaged when it impacted utility lines and a building, during a forced landing, in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot sustained fatal injuries and the passenger sustained serious injuries. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which originated at the Block Island State Airport (BID), Block Island, Rhode Island, and was destined for the Essex County Airport (CDW), Caldwell, New Jersey. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The student pilot was interviewed in the hospital, and she stated that she and the private pilot/owner had departed Caldwell during the afternoon. They flew to Block Island, had dinner, and were returning to Caldwell, where the airplane was based. While enroute to Caldwell, the engine lost power, and they diverted to Teterboro. The private pilot commented that she "should have had enough fuel," and she "thought the gauge was wrong." The student pilot had limited memory of the accident sequence.

According to recorded Air Traffic Control voice communications, the pilot contacted New York TRACON at 2025, and requested flight following services. She advised the controller that the airplane was level at 3,000 feet, and was 5 miles to the west of Fisher's Island, New York, going to Caldwell, (CDW), New Jersey.

The controller issued a transponder code, and normal communications continued with the pilot until 2114, when the pilot declared an emergency. The pilot stated, "the plane is stalling," and requested to land "as soon as possible."

The controller acknowledged the request, and issued a heading of 240-degrees for vectors to Teterboro, which was 8 miles away. The controller advised the pilot she could choose either runway 19 or 24, and the pilot replied that she would land on runway 24.

At 2116, the pilot reported that the field was in sight, and the controller instructed the pilot to contact Teterboro tower when able.

At 2117:02, the pilot contacted Teterboro tower and stated, "teterboro tower ah this the cardinal I'm declaring."

The controller cleared the pilot to land on runway 24 or 19 and advised that the winds were 300 degrees at 6 knots.

At 2117:20, the controller asked, "cardinal four niner one do you have ah any souls onboard fuel onboard"

The pilot responded, "yes I have souls onboard I'm not sure how much fuel I have but um my engine is quitting and um I have the field right in front of me and I'm high enough to make it."

At 2118:28, the pilot stated, "I'm out of fuel is what it is and I hope I make it to the runway"

The controller responded again that the pilot was cleared to land. She then stated, "I don't think I can make it to the runway," and no further transmissions were received by the pilot.

Radar data first recorded the airplane approximately 15 miles west of Block Island at 2017. According to the data, the airplane flew on an approximate southwesterly heading, toward the New York/New Jersey area. At the time the pilot declared an emergency (2116), the airplane was at an altitude of 3,000 feet, approximately 5 miles from Teterboro. The airplane then continued in a gradual descent until the final radar target was observed at 2120, at an altitude of 200 feet, approximately 1/2 mile from the approach end of runway 24.

A witness, who was standing outside his residence, reported that as the airplane flew overhead, the engine "cut out" and then "came back on" several times as it continued southbound toward Teterboro Airport.

According to a Teterboro Airport Operations employee, he received a call from Teterboro Tower reporting a "Cardinal was 10 miles out, having engine trouble." The employee then responded to the crash fire vehicle, and continued to monitor communications on the tower frequency. He stated that the pilot reported about 7 miles out, "we're running out of fuel." She was cleared to land on any runway, and she stated, "we'll take two four." The employee observed the airplane descending toward runway 24, from his vehicle at the hold short line of the runway. He lost sight of the airplane as it descended below the horizon, and then observed two or three bright flashes.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. Her most recent FAA third-class medical was issued on May 23, 2005.

A review of the private pilot's logbook revealed she had approximately 257 total hours of flight experience, 248 hours of which were in make and model of the accident airplane.

The passenger, who was a student pilot, received her most recent FAA third-class medical certificate, and student pilot certificate, on August 24, 2004.

A review of the student pilot's logbook revealed she had approximately 83 hours of total flight experience, none of which was in make and model.


A review of the aircraft and engine logbooks revealed that the airplane had been involved in a propeller strike event in June 2005. The engine was disassembled, repaired, and reinstalled in the airplane on August 10, 2005. The engine had accumulated 9.95 hours of operation since it was reinstalled.

The most recent annual inspection was performed on May 18, 2005. The airplane had flown 21 hours since then.


The weather observation at Teterboro, at 2051, included winds from 260 degrees at 6 knots; 10 statute miles of visibility; clear skies; temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point of 59 degrees Fahrenheit; and an altimeter setting of 29.85 inches of mercury.


The initial impact point was a utility pole, approximately 25 feet tall, about 1/4 mile from the approach end of runway 24. White paint transfer was noted about 2 feet from the top of the pole, and the left tip of the horizontal stabilator was found at the base of the pole.

The wreckage path extended approximately 50 feet to the main wreckage, and was oriented on a heading of 259 degrees. Observed along the wreckage path was an outboard section of the left wing and left wingtip.

The airplane came to rest at the base of a building, in an approximate 45-degree nose down attitude. The left outboard wing section was crushed inboard, and a garbage dumpster was imbedded into the left side of the cockpit area. The leading edge of the left side of the horizontal stabilator displayed a concave rectangular impression, which contained brown paint transfer. The horizontal stabilizer was displaced aft at a 45-degree angle. The right wing remained intact, and the right wingtip was separated from the wing.

The right fuel tank was drained and approximately 4 gallons of fuel was observed. The left fuel tank was empty. The fuel selector was selected to the right tank.

Examination of the throttle quadrant in the cockpit revealed the throttle and mixture controls were in the full forward position.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the flight controls.

Examination of the 2-bladed propeller revealed both blades extended straight, and displayed no evidence of rotation. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller hub, and compression and valve train continuity were obtained on all cylinders. The top and bottom spark plugs were removed; their electrodes were intact and light gray in color. During manual rotation of the engine, both magnetos produced spark at all ignition leads. Borescope examination of all cylinders revealed no anomalies.

Examination of the fuel lines from the engine driven fuel pump, electric fuel pump, and fuel pressure gauge to the carburetor contained no fuel. Approximately 1/4 inch of fuel was observed in the carburetor bowl.


The Bergen County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy and toxicological testing on the pilot on September 3, 2005. The results of the toxicological testing revealed 19 ng/mL of Alprazolam in the pilot's blood.

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. According to the pilot's toxicology test results, 0.047 (ug/ml, ug/g) DIAZEPAM was detected in the pilot's blood, 0.056 (ug/ml, ug/g) of NORDIAZEPAM was detected in the pilot's blood, and 0.134 (ug/ml, ug/g) of NORDIAZEPAM was detected in the pilot's liver.

Review of the pilot's complete FAA medical file revealed she answered "no" in response to the question, "Do you currently use any medication?" She additionally reported "no" to all entries under "Medical History" to which included specifically, "Mental disorders of any sort; depression, anxiety, etc."

The pilot reported her occupation as "Psychologist," and her employer as "Self."


According to a friend of the student pilot's, she reported to him that prior to departing from Block Island on the night of the accident, she insisted that the private pilot "get night current." The student pilot stated that she waited inside the FBO at Block Island, while the private pilot performed several (full stop) touch-and-go landings.

Fueling Information

The airplane was last refueled on September 1, 2005, with 31 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel, at the Dutchess County Airport, in Poughkeepsie, New York, about 50 nm from Caldwell. The amount of flight time accumulated between the refueling and the departure flight from Caldwell could not be determined.

Examination of the Cessna 177 Owner's Manual revealed, that the total (usable) fuel capacity for the airplane was 48 gallons (24 gallons per fuel tank). At altitudes between 2,500 and 5,000 feet, and power settings between 65 and 75 percent power, the engine consumed about 8 to 10 gallons per hour.

Wreckage Release

The airplane was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on September 19, 2005.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and subsequent loss of engine power. A factor in the accident was the pilot's impairment from prescription medication.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.