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N737PK accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Seaside Heights, NJ
39.944285°N, 74.072914°W

Tail number N737PK
Accident date 13 Jul 1997
Aircraft type Cessna TR182
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 13, 1997, at 0224 eastern daylight time, a Cessna TR182, N737PK, was destroyed when it collided with water and sank in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1/2 mile east of Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated from Linden, New Jersey, about 0202. No flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to interviews conducted at the Morristown Municipal Airport (MMU), Morristown, New Jersey, the pilot had rented the airplane for Sunday, July 13, with a planned destination of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The pilot had planned to depart MMU prior to the normal hours of operation, and had arranged for the airplane's keys to be left in the airplane. An employee of MMU Crash Rescue spoke to the pilot of the airplane about 0045, and advised the pilot of the airport's radio communications procedures. The employee then went back to the Crash Rescue building, and observed the airplane taxi out for takeoff. He did not see any other person near or in the airplane that departed MMU, about 0058.

According to New York Air Traffic Control recorded radar data, a radar target with a transponder code of 1200, was observed in a climb near MMU, about 0058. The target climbed to 2,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL), then descended to 800 feet MSL in the vicinity of Linden, New Jersey. The target circled for several minutes, and descended below radar coverage over the Linden Airport (LDJ), about 0134. A radar target was again observed in a climb near LDJ, about 0202. The target climbed in a southeast direction, to 2,500 feet MSL. The target crossed the Colts Neck VOR navigation aid, and maintained 2,500 feet MSL, at an average ground speed of 140 knots. In the vicinity of the New Jersey coast line, the target turned to an approximate heading of 195 degrees, and began a descent. During the descent, the airplane's average ground speed was about 175 knots, and the rate of descent was about 500 feet per minute. At 0220:36, the airplane's last recorded radar return depicted an altitude of 1,000 feet MSL, on the New Jersey shore line, about 5 miles north of Seaside Heights.

Several witnesses observed an airplane flying south along the New Jersey coast line. One witness, a police officer patrolling the boardwalk of Seaside Heights, observed an airplane fly over the pier that contained an amusement park, at an estimated altitude of 100 to 150 feet. The police officer stated the airplane was "running smooth." He further observed navigation lights and a white beacon on the airplane. Other witnesses in the vicinity of Seaside Heights described an airplane flying low and level. They observed the airplane turn to the east, towards the open ocean, then begin another turn to the north. During the turn to the north the airplane struck the water.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness approximately 39 degrees, 56 minutes north latitude, and 74 degrees, 3 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He was not instrument rated.

The pilot's log book was not located; however, his flight experience was documented through records at the flight school where he received his instruction. The pilot successfully completed a private pilot flight test on August 18, 1996. At that time his total flight experience was 101 flight hours, which included 3.9 hours of instructional night flight.

According to the flight school records, the pilot did not fly during October, November and December 1996, and January 1997. He then flew 2.1 hours in February 1997, and did not fly in March, April, and May 1997. The pilot then flew 14.6 hours during June 1997, where he received additional dual instruction.

The pilot's total flight experience was estimated to be 140 hours at the time of the accident, of which 18 hours were in make and model.

The pilot's most recent, and only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Medical Certificate, was a Third Class issued with his student pilot certificate on June 30, 1995. A copy of the certificate, FAA Form 8420-2, was on file at the flight school, and was signed by an FAA medical examiner and the pilot. No limitations were listed on the medical.

A review of FAA records revealed that the pilot's application for a medical certificate was not on file in the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division (AMCD), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. When AMCD contacted the medical examiner that issued the pilot's medical certificate, they received a copy of the pilot's application for a medial certificate, that was on file in the doctor's office.

A review of the application revealed that it was not signed by the medical examiner nor the pilot. The application listed chest pains in two areas, and "mild/controlled hypertension" in the explanation section. Additionally, the blocks under "Conviction and/or Administrative Action History" were not completed.


Weather reported in the accident area was as follows:

Newark, New Jersey, EWR, at 0151, included winds from 320 degrees at 5 knots, a visibility of 10 miles, and scattered clouds at 25,000 feet.

Allaire, Farmingdale, New Jersey, BLM at 0216, included calm winds, a visibility of 10 miles, and no cloud layers

Atlantic City, New Jersey, ACY, at 0154, included winds from 240 degrees at 3 knots, a visibility of 10 miles, and no cloud layers.

McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, WRI, at 0155, included variable winds at 6 knots, a visibility of 7 miles, and a layer of few clouds at 20,000 feet.


Initial debris recovered by the New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) included male and female clothing, airplane sheet metal, interior molding, and several pieces of identification that did not belong to the pilot. The identification was matched to a missing person, whose automobile was located at LDJ. The USCG concluded their efforts on July 13, 1997. The New Jersey State Police continued to search for several weeks, and received assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Customs Service.

The main wreckage, which included the fuselage, wings, tail section, engine, and propeller were not recovered. Examination of the recovered debris produced no useful information due to the nature of the debris and impact damage.


The pilot and passenger were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean on July 30, 1997. An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on July 31, 1997, by Dr. Hydow Park, of the Ocean County Medical Examiner's Office, Toms River, New Jersey.

Toxicological testing of the pilot was performed by the State of New Jersey Toxicology Laboratory, Newark, New Jersey.


Letters were sent to 15 persons identified as potential witnesses, requesting written statements. Six responses were received. Four with statements, and two responded that they did not witness the event.

All the witness statements revealed that the airplane's flight path was parallel to the coast line, in a southerly direction. After the airplane crossed the pier with the amusement park, it was then observed to make a left turn. The left turn placed the airplane heading away from the coast line, in the direction of the open ocean.

Ambient Light - A review of sun and moon data for the accident area revealed that sunset occurred at 2025, and sunrise was estimated to occur at 0538. Nautical twilight was to occur at 0426. Published data listed the moon at minus 20.7 degrees from the horizon.

Night Flight - A Department of the Army Manual, Night Flight Techniques and Procedures, was reviewed. Under visual illusions it stated:

"Decreasing visual information increases the probability of spatial disorientation. Reduced visual references also create several illusions that can induce spatial disorientation. Many types of visual illusions can occur in the aviation environment. Included among them are autokinesis, ground light misinterpretation, relative motion, reversible perspective illusion, false horizons, altered reference planes, and height perception illusion..."

The wreckage debris was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.