NTSB Identification: ERA15CA162
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, March 12, 2015 in St Marys, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/11/2015
Aircraft: BOEING A75N1(PT17), registration: N7772J
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.
NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot/owner of the tailwheel-equipped biplane performed two low approaches prior to landing in order to "judge" the direction and speed of the wind. The pilot then performed a "wheel landing" to runway 10, a 4,300-foot-long, 75-foot-wide asphalt runway. However, by touchdown, the wind speed and direction had changed, which raised the left wing. The pilot corrected for the lifting of the wing, but the heading of the airplane diverged 10 to 15 degrees to the left of runway heading. At that point, the pilot elected to continue into the snow-covered apron, rather than struggle to maintain runway alignment, and risk the loss of aircraft control. The airplane's main landing gear "caught" as it entered the snow, the airplane nosed over, and came to rest inverted with substantial damage to the vertical stabilizer. The pilot stated that there were no preimpact mechanical anomalies with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. The recorded wind at the airport, about the time of the accident, was from 010 degrees at 9 knots, gusting to 16 knots.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control while landing in a gusty crosswind, which resulted in a runway excursion and a nose over.
FAA FSDO: FAA Allegheny PFSDO-03
St. Marys City Police have identified the pilot and sole occupant as 64-year-old David Cox of Shippenville. He reportedly escaped injury in the crash and is said to have declined medical treatment at the scene.
Officer Anthony Pistner said the incident occurred as Cox’s plane touched down on the airport’s runway around 11 a.m. Pistner said a crosswind appears to have forced the plane into a snowbank along the runway, with the impact upending the aircraft with Cox still inside.
Airport business owner Denny Caruso recalled rushing to the scene with an employee and said Cox was able to free himself.
Cox was reportedly bringing the two-seater 1943 Boeing Stearman in for maintenance at Caruso’s Aircraft Service shop when Thursday’s incident occurred.
“Basically, it was windy conditions,” Caruso said of the crash. “He tried to run off the runway but the snow was too deep and it flipped the plane over.”
Damage to the aircraft is described as minimal.
St. Marys police said there were no citations handed down and the investigation has been referred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Local police were assisted on scene Thursday by fire and other emergency personnel.
Unconfirmed reports said Cox’s plane originated from a Clarion-area airport that morning.
In St. Marys, airport authority secretary Wallissa Dippold said after refusing medical treatment, Cox was taken from the scene by his wife, who was already scheduled to pick him up as the plane underwent routine maintenance with Caruso.
The airport’s runway remained open after the incident, according to Caruso, who said no further disruptions to airport operations were expected.
A crane was called in and Cox’s plane was uprighted by roughly 2 p.m., onlookers said.
Some crowded onto adjacent roads to snap pictures of the inverted plane as it lay feet from the runway for part of the afternoon.
This included Jim Weichman of St. Marys, a senior member of Elk County’s Civil Air Patrol, who rushed to the scene after receiving initial reports, concerned he might know those involved.
“One of our pilots took off this morning ... to go down to Lancaster to pick-up an aircraft and bring them back and so I was concerned one of ours might have been involved,” Weichman said.
Weichman said landings at the St. Marys Airport are fairly infrequent — the airport’s website lists 400 “events” annually, a mixture of commercial, instructional, sightseeing, medical, personal and business related flights.
Weichman said crash or rough landings at the airport are even rarer, adding, “this hasn’t happened in quite some time.”
Pistner agreed, saying in more than seven years with the department this is the first he’s encountered.
“This is an unusual one for all of us,” Pistner said.
According to its website, the St. Marys Airport was formally opened on June 30, 1950 and later upgraded its runway to the current 4,300 foot-by-75 foot runway serving single and twin engine airplanes, jets, light sport aircraft and helicopters.
Attempts by The Era to reach David Cox were unsuccessful as of press time Thursday night.