Plane crash map Locate crash sites, wreckage and more

N469J accident description

New Jersey map... New Jersey list
Crash location 40.579167°N, 75.138889°W
Nearest city Holland, NJ
40.600101°N, 75.107951°W
2.2 miles away
Tail number N469J
Accident date 15 Jan 2014
Aircraft type American Champion Aircraft 8KCAB
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On January 15, 2014, at 1607 eastern standard time, an American Champion Aircraft 8KCAB, N469J, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The personal flight, which departed New Castle Municipal Airport (UCP), New Castle, Pennsylvania, and was destined for Alexandria Airport (N85), Pittstown, New Jersey, was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to representatives of the airframe manufacturer, the pilot had recently purchased the airplane, and had departed from their factory in Rochester, Wisconsin, on the morning of the accident to return to his home airport of N85. A handheld GPS device was recovered from the wreckage and its contents downloaded. Review of the data showed that the pilot departed from Fox River Airport (96C), Fox River, Wisconsin about 1004, and arrived at De Kalb County Airport (GWB), Auburn, Indiana about 1129. A fuel receipt recovered from the wreckage noted that the pilot serviced the airplane with 21 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel at GWB at 1143.

The pilot subsequently departed GWB about 1203 and landed at UCP about 1335. The pilot then departed UCP about 1352 on the accident flight. The airplane's final GPS-recorded position was logged at 1607:24, in the vicinity of the accident site.

About that time, a witness reported that while working on a tractor at her dairy farm, she was startled by the sound of a low-flying airplane. She stated that despite the noise of the operating tractor, she heard the airplane overfly her position directly, heading to the east. The airplane sounded "very loud," and the engine sound was smooth and continuous. She looked up and saw the silhouette of an airplane, but due to the dense fog in the area, she could not discern its type or configuration. She believed that the airplane was flying at an altitude above the ground that was less than the height of the nearby high voltage transmission towers, which she estimated to be about 150 feet tall. The elevation at the point where the witness observed the airplane was 232 feet.

After losing sight of the airplane, she dismounted her tractor and attempted look for the it, but again could not see farther than about 125 yards due to the fog. Several seconds later she smelled a unique odor, that she later realized was likely aviation fuel, after having heard reports that an airplane was missing in the area. She subsequently contacted local authorities and advised them that she believed that the airplane may have crashed somewhere near her farm.

The accident site was subsequently located about 2,800 feet east of where the witness last observed the airplane.


The accident airplane was certificated in both the normal and acrobatic categories, and manufactured in December 2013. It was equipped with basic flight instrumentation including an altimeter, vertical speed indicator, airspeed indicator, and turn coordinator. It was not equipped for instrument flight, and no attitude or heading indicators were installed. The airplane was equipped with a single communications radio as well as a transponder, but no navigation radios were installed. A handheld GPS and a tablet computer running aviation flight planning/navigation software were recovered from the accident site. A handheld automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast receiver was also recovered, which among other features, was capable of providing textual and graphic weather products in-flight.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with numerous ratings, including airplane single engine land. He did not hold an instrument rating. The pilot's personal flight logs were not recovered. The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on June 6, 2012, and on that date he reported 4,000 total hours of flight experience.


The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 1600 depicted a cold front extending from eastern New York and Pennsylvania, and into western New Jersey, Maryland, and southward into Virginia. The accident site was located in the immediate vicinity of the cold front. Numerous station models depicted light winds, overcast clouds, with visibility restricted in fog, temperatures around 5 degrees Celsus (C), with temperature-dew point spreads several degrees C or less. The general route of flight from Indiana to New Jersey was characterized by overcast clouds with scattered snow showers.

The NWS Weather Depiction Chart for 1400 showed a large area of marginal VFR conditions over Illinois, Indiana, into Ohio and then into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, with IFR conditions over eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey in the vicinity of the accident site due to fog.

The national radar mosaic for 1615 depicted a small band of very light intensity echoes along the Appalachian mountains in the vicinity of the accident site associated with stratiform clouds and potential drizzle, and an area of light reflectivity further west stretching from New York southwestward into West Virginia.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13, infrared and visible images at 1615 depicted an area of low to mid-level stratiform clouds and fog over eastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey, which extended over the accident site. The radiative cloud top temperature over the accident site was 265 degrees Kelvin or -8.16 degrees C, which corresponded to cloud tops near 10,000 feet.

The area forecast encompassing the accident site was updated at 1345, and for the area of New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, forecast broken clouds at 5,000 feet with cloud tops at 7,000 feet. Through 1600, occasional periods of visibilities between 3 and 5 statute miles in mist were forecast, and at 1600, a broken ceiling at 6,000 feet. The outlook advised of visual meteorological conditions. The area forecast was amended by an AIRMET issued at 1436, and for the area encompassing the accident site, included ceilings below 1,000 feet, visibilities below 3 statute miles in mist and fog, with those conditions forecast to end by 1600. An updated AIRMET was issued at 1545 which advised of ceilings below 1,000 feet, visibilities below 3 statute miles in precipitation and mist, continuing beyond 2200.

Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE), Allentown, PA, was located approximately 15 miles west of the accident site at an elevation of 394 feet. The weather conditions reported at 1551 included winds from 320 degrees true at 4 knots, 1/4 statute mile visibility in fog, vertical visibility 300 feet, temperature and dew point of 3 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of mercury. At 1724, the reported weather conditions at ABE improved to a visibility of 2 statute miles in mist, and a broken ceiling at 1,600 feet.

ABE was located 20 nautical miles west of the destination airport, and issued several updated terminal aerodrome forecasts (TAF) throughout the accident day, which forecast local weather conditions around the time of the accident. The TAF issued at 0900 anticipated that conditions between 1300 and 1900 would include winds from 230 degrees true at 6 knots, greater than 6 statute miles visibility, and broken clouds at 3,500 feet. An amended TAF issued at 1233 anticipated that those same conditions would predominate between 1500 and 1900.

The 1255 TAF included current conditions of variable winds at 2 knots, 1/4 statute mile visibility in fog, a vertical visibility of 200 feet, and that temporarily between 1500 and 1700, the conditions would improve to a visibility of 2 statute miles in mist and an overcast ceiling of 200 feet. Current and forecast conditions did not improve during subsequent hourly issuances of the forecast. The 1456 TAF included current conditions of winds from 340 degrees at 4 knots, 1/4 statute mile visibility in fog, and a vertical visibility of 200 feet. Temporarily between 1500 and 1700, the forecast conditions included 1 statute mile visibility in mist, and an overcast ceiling at 200 feet. Beyond 1700, the forecast called for winds from 270 degrees at 4 knots, greater than 6 statute miles visibility, and an overcast ceiling at 3,500 feet.

Quakertown Airport (UKT), Quakertown, Pennsylvania, was located 20 nautical miles southwest of the destination airport at an elevation of 525 feet, and the airplane passed about 2 nautical miles north of the airport at 1602. The weather conditions reported at 1555 included calm winds, 3/4 statute mile visibility, an overcast ceiling at 100 feet, temperature and dew point of 4 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.90 inches of mercury.


N85 was located at an elevation of 480 feet, and was served by a single, non-precision instrument approach procedure. The airport was comprised of two crossing runways oriented in a 08/26 and 13/31 configuration. The closest airports with official weather reporting capabilities were located between 16 and 20 nautical miles away.


The initial impact point (IIP) was identified as an area of tree strikes near the crest of a hill, at an elevation of 417 feet. The tree strikes were about 50 feet above ground level. A wreckage path extended beyond the initial tree strikes on a magnetic heading of 100 degrees for about 460 feet. Broken tree branches, broken windscreen and side window pieces, pieces of the airplane's fabric covering, and inspection covers were distributed along the wreckage path. A ground scar was located about 300 feet beyond the IIP, and was about 5 feet long and 2 feet wide.

The main portion of the wreckage came to rest beyond an embankment, on a ledge. Both of the wings were largely separated from the fuselage, but remained attached by the aileron control cable and one wing strut on the right side. The forward portion of the fuselage and firewall were deformed and displaced aft. The portion of the fuselage aft of the instrument panel remained largely intact. The empennage and tail control surfaces remained relatively intact with the exception of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator, which were bent downward at a near 90-degree angle.

Control continuity was traced from both cockpit control sticks to the elevator and aileron control horns, and from the rudder pedals to the rudder control horn. The altimeter was found set to 29.70 inches of mercury.

The pilot was discovered by first responders seated in the front seat. Examination of the installed five-point restraint system showed two cuts made by first responders to the lap belt and groin strap, with the system otherwise intact. The lap belt and groin strap latch were found fastened together; however the shoulder harnesses were not fastened and found hanging from their mount point.

The engine remained attached to its mounts and displayed significant impact-related damage to the number one cylinder and exhaust system, while the number two and four cylinders displayed relatively less impact damage. Both of the wooden propeller blades were broken off at the propeller hub. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand via the propeller hub, and thumb compression and suction were obtained on cylinders number one and three. Movement was observed at all rocker arms except the number four cylinder intake arm, which was impact-damaged. Crankshaft and camshaft continuity was confirmed from the propeller flange to the accessory gears.

The spark plugs were removed and appeared unremarkable. Both magnetos were secure on their mounts. They were subsequently removed and rotated by an electric drill motor, which produced spark at all terminal leads. The engine-driven fuel pump was removed from its mount and when actuated by hand, it produced suction and compression. The fuel flow divider was removed and dismantled, with no defects were observed. The oil suction screen was removed and was found absent of debris.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by Forensic Pathology Services, LLC at the Hunterdon County Medical Examiner's Office, Flemington, New Jersey. The stated cause of death was, "multiple blunt force trauma."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. No carbon monoxide, ethanol, or drugs were detected in the samples submitted.


Handheld GPS Data

A Garmin GPSMAP 496 handheld GPS device was recovered from the wreckage and found to be in good condition. The portable GPS receiver was capable of storing date, route-of-flight, and flight-time information for up to 50 flights. A detailed tracklog – including latitude, longitude, date, time, and groundspeed information – was stored within the unit whenever the receiver had a lock on the GPS navigation signal. All recorded data was stored in non-volatile memory. The unit contained hardware and software permitting the download of recorded waypoint, route, and tracklog information to a PC via a built-in serial port. Power was applied to the unit using NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory equipment, and device startup was consistent with normal operation. GPS data was downloaded using normal methods and Garmin's Mapsource software. The data extracted included 32 sessions from August 24, 2013 through January 15, 2014.

A three-dimensional plot of the accident flight was prepared overlaying the GPS data onto an orthographically projected terrain map. Review of the plot showed that the airplane generally maintained a GPS altitude of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet for the enroute portion of the flight. About 1604, the airplane began descending from its previously established altitude of 3,000 feet, and for a period of 32 seconds between 1604:46 and 1605:18, descended at an average rate of about 1,600 feet per minute.

By 1605:58, the airplane had descended to a GPS altitude of about 1,100 feet, which calculated to be about 600 feet above the terrain in that area. At the point where the airplane overflew the witness's farm, it was about 375 feet above the terrain, and when the airplane's final GPS position was recorded at 1607:24, it was about 270 feet above the terrain. The airplane's final recorded track was oriented roughly toward the destination airport, which was located about 5.6 nautical miles east of the accident site.

FAA Advisory Circular 61-134

In April 2003, the FAA published Advisory Circular 61-134, General Aviation Controlled Flight into Terrain Awareness. The circular stated in part:

"Operating in marginal VFR [visual flight rules]/IMC conditions is more commonly known as scud running. According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA data, one of the leading causes of GA accidents is continued VFR flight into IMC. As defined in 14 CFR part 91, ceiling, cloud, or visibility conditions less than that specified for VFR or Special VFR is IMC and IFR [instrument flight rules] applies. However, some pilots, including some with instrument ratings, continue to fly VFR in conditions less than that specified for VFR. The result is often a CFIT [controlled flight into terrain] accident when the pilot tries to continue flying or maneuvering beneath a lowering ceiling and hits an obstacle or terrain or impacts water. The accident may or may not be a result of a loss of control before the aircraft impacts the obstacle or surface. The importance of complete weather information, understanding the significance of the weather information, and being able to correlate the pilot's skills and training, aircraft capabilities, and operating environment with an accurate forecast cannot be emphasized enough."

The circular concludes with several recommendations to avoid CFIT-type accidents which in part included:

"(1) Noninstrument rated VFR pilots should not attempt to fly in IMC.

(2) Know and fly above minimum published safe altitudes. VFR: Fly a minimum of 1,000 feet above the highest terrain in your immediate operating area in nonmountainous areas. Fly a minimum of 2,000 feet in mounta

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, resulting in controlled flight into trees and terrain.

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