Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cessna 177 Cardinal, N2835X: Accident occurred September 13, 2015 near Smith Mountain Lake Airport (W91), Moneta, Bedford County, Virginia

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA354 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 13, 2015 in Moneta, VA
Aircraft: CESSNA 177, registration: N2835X
Injuries: 2 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 13, 2015, about 1630 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177, N2835X, impacted the ground while maneuvering for landing at Smith Field Lake Airport (W91), Moneta, Virginia, and a postimpact fire ensued. The commercial pilot and passenger were seriously injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the empennage, and the fuselage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the aerial observation flight, which departed Norfolk International Airport (ORF), Norfolk, Virginia, about 1630. The airplane was owned by a private individual and operated by another individual for the aerial photographic flight, which was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to several witnesses, some of which were pilots; the aircraft entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 23. The airplane was observed above the expected approach path, while on the final leg of the approach; however, none of those eyewitnesses observed the airplane begin a go-around maneuver. Another eyewitness, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the accident location, reported the engine was "missing and backfiring" prior to the accident. They further reported that the airplane impacted two trees and then the street.

According to fuel records, the airplane was last fueled at Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), Durham, North Carolina, on September 12, 2015. The manager of the fixed base operator further reported that it was "topped off" at that time. No other fuel receipts were located for the time between that refueling and the accident. The airplane departed RDU on September 13, 2015, about 1230, flew to, and landed at, two other airports prior to the accident flight.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration inspector, the airplane came to rest on a street in a residential neighborhood, located near the departure end of runway 23. The aircraft was thermally damaged aft of the firewall, including the cabin section and part of the empennage. The fuel tanks, one in each wing, were breeched and evidence of thermal damage was noted.

The nearest recorded weather observation, located at an airport 22 miles to the northwest of the accident location, indicated that the wind was from the northwest between 9 and 12 knots, around the time of the accident,.

Several electronic devices were sent to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory for download. The engine was retained for further examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Richmond FSDO-21

MONETA, Va. (AP) -- Police have identified two people who were injured in the crash of a small plane in Moneta.

Virginia State Police say the pilot, Jeremiah Anthony Kelner, and a passenger, Victoria Mallett, remain hospitalized.

The single-engine Cessna crashed and caught fire on Sunday afternoon about a quarter-mile from the Smith Mountain Lake Airport. Airport manager Mike Matt has said the pilot was trying to land when the crash occurred.

State police Sgt. Michael Bailey tells The Roanoke Times that a preliminary analysis indicates the pilot lost power as he tried to gain altitude after overshooting the runway. The plane then hit trees.        

MONETA (WSLS 10) – A federal investigation is underway in Moneta after Sunday’s fiery plane crash about a quarter-mile from the Smith Mountain Lake Airport. The plane crashed down near Parkside Drive and caught on fire. The two passengers were taken to the hospital, one with severe burns.

Airport manager Michael Matta studied surveillance video of the accident. He said he thinks the pilot was trying to land and realized he was coming in too fast and too close to the end of the runway.

Matta explained, “At some point realized he could not make the landing and attempted what we call a go around,  that’s my speculation, but that’s what I believe happened. And when in that process either he lost power in the engine which can happen once you put the throttle back forward.”

Area neighbors said the airplane fell about 80 feet from the sky. On the way down, the plane sliced through some trees and skimmed over housetops.

“It made just a loud noise,” said Wess Cooper. “I would say somewhere to an automobile crash…just a a large balloon or something…just more of a pop.”

A sound that echoed throughout this quiet neighborhood stopped Wess Cooper like others in their tracks. Calling 911, Cooper rushed to accident to find both passengers out of the aircraft and the pilot rolling on the ground.

“When he got out he was on fire,” commented Cooper. “And, within about two-minutes of him getting out of the plane, the plane just exploded. I mean, it didn’t started burning…it just suddenly exploded.”

The plane was a 1967 single engine airplane. The FAA said the age of the aircraft was likely not a factor in the crash.

The pilot and passenger were initially treated at the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The pilot was airlifted was later airlifted  to Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Center for burn treatment after suffering from second and third-degree burns.

The victims names were not released.

The FAA is still investigating and said it could take months to figure out what caused the crash.

Story and video:

It was about 4:15 p.m. Sunday when Rick Herron heard a plane backfire near his Smith Mountain Lake home. Less than a minute later, that same plane — a small, red and white, single-engine Cessna — crashed in the middle of Parkside Drive in The Forty Acres, a small, private lakeside subdivision where Herron lives.

The pilot sheared the tops off a few trees but was able to avoid all power lines and structures in the area before the plane crashed and caught fire.

Two individuals were airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital as a result of the crash, one of whom later was flown to Wake Forest for burn treatment, according to Sgt. Richard Garletts of the Virginia State Police.

The Civil Air Patrol secured the crash site, located within a quarter-mile of the runway at Smith Mountain Lake Airport, Sunday night. Federal Aviation Administration personnel are expected to arrive in the coming days.

“This is the first [plane] crash that I’m aware of,” Mike Matta, manager of the airport, said Sunday night. Matta, who took the position in January, has lived at the lake for the last 14 years.

A retired pilot himself, Matta said he did not recognize the plane or recall it ever being at the airport.

The pilot “was attempting to land, we know that,” he said, adding that the plane had about 20 gallons of fuel on board.

“Everything [else] right now is speculation,” he said.

Two hours after the crash, the acrid smell of fire still clung to the plane debris splayed across Parkside Drive, about 1,000 feet from the end of the airport runway .

Standing in his driveway midway between the first piece of the plane debris that fell about 50 feet from his garage and the charred body of the plane, Herron said he was sitting on his back porch overlooking the lake when he heard the plane backfire then crash about 30 seconds later. By the time he got to the front of the house, he said, the plane had exploded in a ball of fire.

“It scared the daylights out of me,” he said.

He said he and other neighbors helped a woman and a man escape the burning plane and helped smother the flames on the pilot, who was on fire.

Herron and neighbor Paul Meeker said plane traffic is common on the weekends. Many residents spend their weekends at the lake and use the airport to come and go, Herron said. Meeker, who has lived in the subdivision for more than 30 years, said this is the first accident that he can recall occurring there.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the majority of traffic at SML airport is local. The airport reported 2,639 local flights and 2,290 itinerant flights in 2014. The airport itself has reported nine accidents since 1992, none of which have resulted in injuries according to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

According to FAA records, the 1967 Cessna Cardinal is a four-seat, fixed-wing, single-engine plane privately owned by John Dwyer and registered in Florida. Officials did not confirm the identity of either the pilot or passenger on Sunday. Dwyer was unreachable for comment.


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