Safety Board Issues Preliminary Report on Rockefeller Plane Crash.

WPCNR AVIATION NEWS. From Peter Katz, Editor, NTSB REPORTER. June 21, 2014:

On Saturday, the NTSB issued a preliminary report on the June 13 crash of a Piper Malibu Meridian single-engine turboprop aircraft shortly after takeoff from the Westchester County Airport (identifier HPN). Richard Rockefeller, son of David Rockefeller, was the pilot and only occupant of the airplane. He was killed.
The preliminary report issued by the NTSB on Saturday does not establish a probable cause of the accident. The full investigation may take up to a year or more, and no conclusions will be reached until the investigation has been completed. 
The NTSB reports that Rockefeller was flying on an instrument flight plan, requiring the use of cockpit instruments for navigation and aircraft control. This would have been necessary because of because of bad weather which severely limited the view through the airplane’s windows. The accident occurred at about 8:08 a.m. The personal flight was destined for Portland International Jetport (PWM), Portland, Maine.The report continues, “The pilot had flown from PWM to HPN the previous day. The fixed base operator (FBO) at HPN serviced the airplane with 60 gallons of Jet-A fuel, which filled the tanks and FBO personnel were advised to expect the pilot at 0900 on the following day. The pilot subsequently arrived at the FBO at 0745 and requested his airplane be brought outside and prepared for an immediate departure.

“Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the flight departed HPN at 0806 and that the air traffic control tower was contacted shortly thereafter by the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control facility inquiring if the flight had departed. The local controller responded that the flight should have departed but that ‘visibility was so low he couldn’t tell.’

“Review of recorded radar data indicates five radar targets identified as the accident airplane were captured, and all were over HPN airport property. The first three radar targets began about mid-point of the 6,500-foot runway and each were at 500 feet mean sea level (msl). The airport elevation was 439 feet msl. The final two targets depicted a shallow right turn and were at 600 and 700 feet msl respectively, before radar contact was lost.

The final radar target was observed about 1/2 mile from the accident site, and the final track roughly aligned with the wreckage path.”Examination of the accident site indicated that the airplane collided with trees and terrain behind a house, and in front of horse stables on residential property. Two witnesses at the stables were interviewed and their statements were consistent throughout. T

hey each stated that the weather was ‘dark, rainy, and foggy, and their attention was drawn to the airplane when it appeared out of the clouds immediately above the trees. One stated that he heard the airplane engine before he saw the airplane. The airplane was wings level when the outboard section of the left wing struck the first tree, the inboard section of the left wing struck the second tree, and then the airplane broke apart in a large cloud of blue “smoke” that smelled like ‘diesel’ fuel.”The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on November 25, 2013 and was not valid for any class after July 31, 2014. There were restrictions that required the pilot to wear corrective lenses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision. The pilot reported 5,100 hours of flight experience on his last medical application.

“According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 2001. According to a trip log recovered at the accident site, the airplane had accrued 1,931 total hours of flight time. The most recent annual inspection was completed June 3, 2014, at 1,927 total aircraft hours.

“At 0815, the weather reported at HPN, located 1 nautical mile north of the accident site, included an overcast ceiling at 200 feet and 1/4 mile visibility in fog. The wind was from 090 degrees at 6 knots. The temperature was 17 degrees C, the dew point was 17 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 29.85 inches of mercury.

“Examination of the accident site revealed a strong odor of fuel and that all major components of the airplane were accounted for. No evidence of an in-flight or post-impact fire was observed on any of the airframe components. The wreckage path was oriented about a magnetic heading of 270 degrees and was approximately 360 feet in length.

The initial impact point was in a tree approximately 60 feet above the ground. Other trees were struck before the initial ground scar, which was about 205 feet beyond the first tree strike. One tree, about 24 inches in diameter, had a 10-foot length of trunk sectioned and carried 50 feet down the wreckage path. Several pieces of angularly-cut wood were found along the length of the debris field.”The report noted that an engine data acquisition unit and a tablet computer were recovered from the accident site and sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for subsequent examination.

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