Plane crash map Locate crash sites, wreckage and more

N5528T accident description

New Jersey map... New Jersey list
Crash location 41.100278°N, 74.370000°W
Nearest city West Milford, NJ
41.100096°N, 74.391264°W
1.1 miles away
Tail number N5528T
Accident date 03 Apr 2010
Aircraft type Cessna 172E
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On April 3, 2010, about 1205 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172E, N5528T, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Greenwood Lake Airport (4N1), West Milford, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot/co-owner was fatally injured, and the student pilot/co-owner was seriously injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight.

According to the previous owner of the airplane, it was stored outside at Robert J. Miller Airpark (MJX), Tom's River, New Jersey, and had not been flown between 2007 and March 2010. According to an acquaintance of the two co-owners, and a contract found in the airplane, they jointly purchased the airplane in March 2010. According to a pilot-rated mechanic with an inspection authorization rating, on March 20, the mechanic and the two co-owners drove to MJX to examine, purchase and service the airplane. The mechanic stated that the co-owners drained approximately 15 gallons of fuel from the two tanks, because water was detected when they sampled the fuel. The mechanic stated that some fuel remained in the airplane, because they did not have enough containers to capture all the fuel. He also stated that the spark plugs were removed, examined and re-installed, engine compression was checked, fuel drains were removed and reinstalled, bird nests were removed, and the nose gear strut was serviced. The mechanic did not know the final disposition of the captured fuel, but he stated that it was not put back into the airplane. . The mechanic stated that fuel was purchased at MJX, and the pilot-rated co-owner flew the airplane in the traffic pattern there, but the mechanic did not specify whether it was before or after the fuel purchase. After landing and shutdown, the engine could not be re-started, but after the engine had cooled, it was re-started successfully. According to a customer service representative of a fixed base operator (FBO) at MJX, their plan was to relocate the airplane to another airport, but weather precluded that flight. The three individuals then departed MJX without the airplane.

On March 27, the three individuals again drove to MJX. The FBO customer service representative stated that the individuals "came to work on the aircraft," and that she and another FBO employee observed the airplane depart about noon. The previously-mentioned acquaintance of the co-owners stated that the pilot-rated co-owner and the mechanic flew the airplane to Orange County Airport (MGJ), Montgomery, New York, where the pilot-rated co-owner kept another airplane, N305JP.

In an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the mechanic stated that he never saw the maintenance records for the airplane, and that he did not perform any maintenance on, or make any maintenance entries regarding, the accident airplane. The mechanic also stated that he was aware that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was expired, and that no-one had obtained a ferry permit for the flight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to the same acquaintance of the co-owners, the pilot-rated co-owner planned to fly N305JP on the morning of the accident. No witnesses for that flight were located. A representative of Lockheed Martin Flight Services (LMFS) stated that no weather briefing or flight planning services were provided for N305JP by LMFS or DUATS on April 2 or April 3, 2010.

A line service person at 4N1 reported that on the morning of the accident, while at 4N1, the pilot-rated co-owner asked him how he liked his "new airplane," and pointed to the accident airplane. About 0800 or 0830, the service person noticed the two co-owners were sitting at a table outside the airport terminal, examining what he referred to as "logs," which he presumed was documentation for the airplane. About 1000 or 1030, the line service person noticed that the two were no longer at the table, but he did not notice if the airplane was still at 4N1. He did not see the two co-owners or the airplane depart. A review of FAA air traffic control and radar data for the geographic region on that day did not reveal any communications or radar targets that could be definitively associated with the accident airplane. A representative of LMFS stated that no weather briefing or flight planning services were provided for the accident airplane or either of the two co-owners by LMFS or DUATS on April 2 or April 3, 2010.

The acquaintance of the co-owners reported that also on the day of the accident, she planned to meet them about noon at Lincoln Park Airport (N07), Lincoln Park, New Jersey. She understood that the pilot-rated co-owner was to fly the accident airplane from MGJ to 4N1, pick up the student pilot-rated co-owner, and then fly to N07. About 1120, she received a telephone call from the student pilot who told her that he "was about 20 minutes from the airport," which she presumed to denote 4N1. She arrived at N07 about noon, and waited there for approximately 1 hour, but did not hear from either of the two pilots. She concluded that there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication of their plans, and she left N07 about 1300.

A few minutes after noon, a witness whose home was located about 1,600 feet west-southwest of the threshold of 4N1 runway 6, observed an airplane that matched the color scheme of the accident airplane takeoff from that runway, and turn to the south. The witness stated that the airplane was "low and slow," and that its engine sounded very unusual. He described the engine sound as similar to "a hit and miss engine," which produced an irregular sound pattern. He observed the airplane for a period of about 40 seconds. Immediately after he lost sight of the airplane, the witness telephoned his cousin, who lived approximately 2 miles to the south-southwest, and left a message regarding his observations about the airplane, noting that he believed that the airplane was headed in the direction of his cousin's house.

Two witnesses located about 800 feet northwest of the accident site saw the airplane fly over their house and begin striking the treetops. Neither one of them heard any engine sound, or observed the propeller. One of these witnesses saw the airplane enter an extreme right-wing-down attitude after it began striking the trees. That witness was the cousin of the witness who saw the airplane take off, and his mobile phone rang as he was running to the accident site. He did not answer the call, but when he later listened to the message, it was his cousin telling him about the airplane.

A witness located about 1,000 feet northwest of the accident site saw the airplane on a heading of approximately 120 degrees, about 50 to 100 feet above the trees. He did not observe the propeller, and did not hear any engine noise, but added that the "background" noise of the neighborhood was "moderate" due to lawnmower and leafblower activity. He lost sight of the airplane, and then heard the impact. He arrived at the accident site shortly thereafter, and he noticed that there was a "very faint gas smell."

Another witness was in his car heading east when the airplane crossed from left to right, about 150 feet in front of him, and very close to the ground. He observed the airplane to be in an attitude of approximately 90 degrees right wing down. He stated that there was "definitely no engine" operating when he saw the airplane. He arrived at the accident site within a minute of the impact, and he noted that he smelled "gas," and expressed his concerns about the potential for fire to the other persons who were arriving.


Pilot-rated Individual

FAA records indicated that one co-owner held a private pilot certificate, with an airplane single engine land rating. He did not hold an FAA mechanic certificate. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in August 2008. According to a representative of the insurance company which provided the insurance for the airplane, the pilot-rated co-owner specified that the insurance coverage was to become effective on March 20, 2010. The representative also stated that the co-owner reported on his application that he had 1,221 total hours of flight experience. Interviews with the co-owner's wife revealed that he had not informed her about his purchase of the accident airplane.

Student Pilot-rated Individual

The other co-owner held a student pilot certificate. He did not hold an FAA mechanic certificate. His flight logbook was recovered from the wreckage. Review of the logbook indicated that he started flying in September 1983, and ceased in December 1983, after approximately 16 hours of total flight experience. The logbook indicated that he accrued 1 hour in 2007, and 1 hour in 2008. In March 2009, he began flying regularly in his Ercoupe 415, and accumulated a total of 75.9 hours in that airplane, of which 34.9 hours were dual instruction flights. In the 30 days preceding the accident, the logbook indicated that the student pilot flew two solo flights, and one dual flight, that totaled 3.5 hours. His most recent flight date was listed as March 10. The logbook indicated that the student pilot had flown a Cessna 172 one time previously, for 0.7 hours in May 2009. This individual was unable to recall any details regarding the purchase of the airplane or the accident flight.


According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1964, and was first registered to the previous owner in September 1987. A supplemental type certificate (STC) for the use of automotive gasoline was filed with the FAA in January 1987. According to the STC holder, there were no operational or performance changes when automotive gasoline was used, and the intermix of automotive and aviation gasoline was permitted. The STC holder also stated that a decal that permitted the use of automotive gasoline, and prohibited the use of fuel containing "alcohol," was supposed to be affixed to each wing near the fuel filler port. The decals were not present on the airplane, but paint and corrosion patterns were consistent with the previous presence of the decals.

No FAA records of the purchase or registration of the airplane by either co-owner, or of its sale by the previous owner, were located. According to the previous owner, an aircraft broker doing business as "Rich Lucas Aircraft Sales" contacted him via the owner's sale advertisement for the accident airplane which was posted on a public, internet-based forum. The previous owner stated that he relied on the aircraft broker to ensure that the appropriate documentation was correctly completed and filed with the FAA, and that he did not make or retain any copies of the lone form that he did recall signing. The previous owner stated that the aircraft broker told him that he had a buyer for the airplane who lived in Central America, and that he was not provided any additional information about the buyer, either before or after the sale of the airplane. The previous owner stated that he never met the new co-owners, and that he was not aware that they were the buyers until after the accident.


The 1153 recorded weather observation at an airport located 14 miles west of the accident site included winds from 210 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 21 degrees C, dew point 7 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury.


FAA records indicated that 4N1 was equipped with a single asphalt runway designated 6/24, which measured 3,471 by 60 feet. Right-hand traffic was specified for runway 6, and left hand traffic for runway 24. Airport elevation was listed as 790 feet, and the airport was not equipped with an operating control tower.


The accident site was located in a wooded area approximately 1.8 miles south-southwest of the threshold of 4N1 runway 6. The main wreckage consisted of the entire airplane, with the exception of the two plastic wingtips and a few plastic trim and window fragments. The distance from the first indications of tree strikes to the main wreckage was approximately 250 feet, on a magnetic heading of approximately 175 degrees. The airplane came to rest in an attitude of approximately 135 degrees right wing down (inverted), with the longitudinal axis aligned with the final trajectory. Several freshly-broken tree limbs, approximately 10 inches in diameter, were found on the ground, near or on top of the main wreckage. The right and left wingtips were found along the wreckage path, approximately 100 feet and 30 feet, respectively, prior to the main wreckage.

According to information provided by the first responders, the student pilot-rated co-owner was found in the left seat, and the pilot-rated co-owner was found in the right seat. Both seats remained attached to their respective seat tracks. Rescue personnel unbuckled the left lap belt, cut the left seat out of the airplane, and cut the buckled right seat lap belt. The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses.

The right wing was crumpled, torn and folded aft under the fuselage. The left wing exhibited leading edge and tip damage, and was canted forward approximately 20 degrees from the lateral axis of the airplane. The cockpit and cabin sustained crush damage in the down and aft directions (in the airplane axis reference system), and the aft fuselage was moderately crumpled. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers sustained crush damage to their leading edges. The right main landing gear strut was fracture-separated from the airplane at its juncture with the fuselage. The engine was fracture-separated from the engine mount at the mount fittings, but remained in its relative position and attached by cables, hoses, and wiring. The metal two-blade propeller remained attached to the engine. One blade was bent about 30 degrees aft at its mid-span point, and the other blade was bent about 90 degrees aft at its mid-span point. No chordwise scratching or scoring was observed on either blade. There was no fire.

All components of the airplane were found at the accident site, all aerodynamic control surfaces remained attached to their respective airfoils, and control continuity for all control surfaces was verified. The manually-actuated flaps were found retracted, and the elevator trim was found set to approximately 5 degrees tab trailing edge up, which would result in an airplane-nose-down trim condition. According to the FAA inspector who examined the airplane about 3 hours after the accident, the right fuel tank was breached and crushed, and did not contain any fuel. The left fuel tank was intact, and it did not contain any fuel. The four-position fuel selector valve was set to "BOTH ON," the ignition and master switches were set to "OFF," and the key was found in the ignition switch.

A detailed examination of the wreckage was initiated the morning after the accident. The instrument panel and control yokes exhibited crush and disruption damage. A Garmin handheld GPSMap196 was attached to the left yoke; it was retained for data download by the NTSB recorders laboratory. The throttle and carburetor heat controls were full forward (respectively corresponding to full throttle and carburetor heat off settings), and the mixture control was pulled aft approximately 2 inches (corresponding to a lean or idle cut-off mixture setting). All circuit breakers were found in their normal ("in") positions. The barometric adjustment on the altimeter face was set to 30.26, and the altimeter indicated an altitude of 990 feet, which was the approximate elevation of the accident site. The airspeed indicator registered 0 mph, and the colored arcs accurately represented the published airspeed limitations. The tachometer hour meter registered 1486.55 hours.

The fuel selector valve handle was rotated by investigators, and the valve detents were felt in all four valve positions. Only about 1 ounce of fuel was recovered from the fuel tank vent interconnect line that was routed between the two fuel tanks

NTSB Probable Cause

The complete loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

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