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N4944E accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Block Island, RI
41.172800°N, 71.577300°W

Tail number N4944E
Accident date 26 Aug 1995
Aircraft type Cessna A185F
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 26, 1995, at 1315 eastern daylight time, a Cessna A185F, an amphibian, N4944E, was destroyed when it collided with a building during initial climb after an aborted water landing near Block Island, Rhode Island. The private pilot, three passengers, and an automobile driver were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, for the personal flight that originated from East Hampton, New York, about 1250. No flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot/owner and two passengers departed from the pilot's private dock in Westport, Connecticut. They landed at the East Hampton Airport (HTO), refueled the airplane, and added a third passenger. The airplane then departed from HTO with four occupants and 88 gallons of fuel, for the 20 minute flight to Block Island.

Witnesses reported the airplane circled the Old Harbor area of Block Island at approximately 1,000 feet. It then descended and touched down on the water in a westerly direction outside of the harbor. A police officer who witnessed the event stated:

...At this time I saw the seaplane flying in very low from the east, in a westerly direction...The seaplane was traveling in a direct line/path into swimmers and people standing in the water...the plane first touched down in the ocean an estimated 300 to 400 feet off shore, and traveled an estimated 50 to 100 feet, slowing as if taxiing to come ashore. The plane then proceeded to takeoff again as it reached the area off shore, where boulders were protruding from the water's surface...the plane continued to travel westerly, it gathered very little altitude. The plane passed approximately 15 feet off ground...20 feet south of my position...The plane did not appear to be experiencing any obvious mechanical difficulties, there was no smoke emitting from the plane and no sounds of a faltering engine...

Another witness was a commercial airline pilot. In his written statement he said:

...The approach I thought, was too steep. It appeared that the pilot was trying to get the plane down as quickly as possible. I thought he was too close to the shore. The aircraft was not flared, or even rounded off from its approach. It was just driven onto the water. Its pitch attitude was flat to slightly nose low. When the aircraft initially touched down, it bounced hard back into the air roughly 5 to 7 feet... After the bounce the pilot pitched down to get the plane to the water again...when the plane touched down, the pilot immediately pulled back on the control wheel to try and dig the floats into the water...however, he had too much airspeed and the aircraft pitched up and only the aft foot...of the floats were in the water. At this point a go-around was initiated. Full power was applied. The aircraft immediately rose off of the water...As soon as the aircraft started climbing the pilot had to bank to the right. It appeared to me that he just missed the hotel...The water was smooth. The wind was out of the WNW[west-northwest]. There didn't appear to be any boats, rocks or swimmers in the way... nothing was wrong with the engine. It was developing full power...I have many thousands of hours in recips ...I know the sound of a continental engine with a three blade prop...

According to other witnesses, the airplane crossed the beach and wires in a nose up attitude of approximately 40 degrees. The airplane then descended and cut through a 2 inch telephone cable, struck the roof of an automobile, and collided with the front of a restaurant/gas station building. A post-crash fire consumed the airplane, building, and automobile.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 41 degrees, 11 minutes north latitude, and 71 degrees, 33 minutes west longitude.


The pilot, Mr. Michael H. Waldman, held a Private Pilot Certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and sea.

His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Medical Certificate was issued on December 21, 1993.

Mr. Waldman's pilot log book revealed that he received his initial private pilot rating in April 1992, and his seaplane rating in July 1992. Mr. Waldman had accumulated about 444 hours of total flight experience. His total seaplane experience was about 150 hours, of which 131 hours were in this make and model during the previous 120 days.


Sharkey's Restaurant and the Corn Neck Fuel Station were co- located, about 340 feet northwest of the Block Island Old Harbor. Two gasoline pumps were located on the southeast side of the building. An automobile and driver were at the gas pumps at the time of the accident. The fuel pumps and tanks did not contribute to the fire.


The Block Island State Airport, located about 1 mile west of the Old Harbor area, was open and operating at the time of the accident.


The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 27, 1995. The examination revealed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The forward half of the airplane's fuselage came to rest inside of a building, on a magnetic bearing of 310 degrees.

Telephone poles along the road, about 40 feet in front of the building, had cables strung between them at 25 and 30 feet above the ground. The cables 30 feet above the ground were intact; however, the 2-inch-diameter telephone cable, at 25 feet, was cut in several places, perpendicular to the cable length.

An automobile parked 8 feet in front of the restaurant, had crease marks on the hood and roof. The width of the crease marks measured the same as width of the airplane's floats.

The airplane and building burned to the ground. Examination of the wreckage revealed control continuity to all flight control attaching points. The flap handle was set to one notch of flaps, and the throttle and mixture controls were full forward. The pilot's and forward passenger's seat belt buckles were attached. The seat belt buckles for the rear passengers were unfastened. Examination of the cockpit area produced no other useful information due to impact and fire damage.

The engine and propeller hub remained attached to the airplane. The three propeller blades were burned/melted off, leaving 4 to 5 inch stubs. The engine was removed from the accident site and examined at a nearby facility.

Examination of the engine revealed that it was severely fire damaged. Components extensively burned and melted included, the oil pan, valve covers, magnetos, vacuum pump, starter, fuel flow divider, oil cooler, and propeller governor. The engine fuel pump was melted; however, the shaft was not sheared.

The engine could not be rotated; however, all connecting rods were bolted to the crankshaft, and all pistons were intact. All camshaft lifters were in place, and all of the valve springs and rocker arms were intact, except for the number five cylinder. The number five cylinder forward edge received impact damage, and the springs and rocker arms were missing.

The exhaust stack collectors were intact, and not obstructed or compressed.


An autopsy was performed on Mr. Michael H. Waldman, on August 27, 1995, by Dr. Elizabeth A. Laposata, Chief Medical Examiner, Office of the State Medical Examiners, Providence, Rhode Island.

Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


The State of Rhode Island had only one recognized water landing facility, near Tiverton, Rhode Island. Block Island had no officially recognized water landing area; however, according to the Block Island State Airport manager, and local residents, water landings routinely occurred near the Old Harbor area. According to witnesses, prior to N4944E's attempted landing, another seaplane landed parallel to the shore line, in a southerly direction, and taxied into the harbor.

According to the Cessna Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), the Model A185F Amphibian, had a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 3,265 pounds on land, and 3,100 pounds on water. The maximum certificated landing weight was 3,100 pounds, on land and water. Performance Charts figures in the Cessna POH, were based upon the Cessna maximum certificated weights.

A review of the Cessna POH landing data, revealed that a 3,100 pound airplane, at 20 degrees C and sea level, required a landing water run of 610 feet. The Cessna POH Takeoff Distance on Water Chart, listed a water run takeoff distance of 930 feet, given the same conditions, and a 1,495 foot takeoff distance to clear a 50 foot obstacle.

The airplane was equipped with Wipline Model 4000 Amphibian Floats. The Wipline Amphibian Floats were approved for use by an FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). According to the Wipline POH supplement, the maximum certificated weights for takeoff and landing were 3,350 pounds. For performance data, the STC's POH supplement stated, , "...Sample Problem paragraphs in Section 5 of the basic handbook is applicable to the Amphibian." No performance charts were included in the STC's POH supplement.

Weight and Balance

A July 1995, weight and balance supplement computed by VIP Aero, Hartford, Connecticut, was used to compute the airplane's weight, and center of gravity (C.G.). The estimated weight and balance computed as follows: Weight Sta. Moment Amphibian empty weight-----------2,586 96.53 Useable fuel (84 gal)--------------504 23.5 Pilot------------------------------206 38 7.83 Passengers - Fwd Right-------------175 38 6.65 - Left Rear-------------160 65 10.4 - Right Rear------------110 65 7.15 Baggage (anchor,rope,bags)----------50 97 4.85

East Hampton Estimated takeoff weight----------3,791 pounds Estimated C.G.--------------------41.39 inches

Minus 50 pound fuel burn during run-up and flight.

Block Island Estimated landing weight----------3,741 pounds Estimated landing C.G.------------41.28 inches

According to the Cessna POH, at the maximum certificated takeoff weight of 3,350 pounds, the forward and aft C.G. limits were 41.8 to 46.5 inches.

At the maximum Cessna certificated landing weight of 3,100 pounds, the forward and aft C.G. limits were 40.4 to 46.5 inches.

The airplane wreckage was released on August 28, 1995, to John Watson, a representative of the owners insurance company.

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