Sunday, September 25, 2016

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N612FL and Cessna 120, N3580V: Fatal accident occurred September 25, 2016 in North Collins, New York



FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Rochester FSDO-23

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA324A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 25, 2016 in North Collins, NY
Aircraft: CESSNA 120, registration: N3580V
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA324B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 25, 2016 in North Collins, NY
Aircraft: PIPER PA28, registration: N612FL
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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 either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 24, 2016, at 0923 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 120, N3580V, and a Piper PA-28-140, N612FL, collided in midair while in cruise flight over North Collins, New York. The Cessna was destroyed and the private pilot was fatally injured. The Piper was destroyed and the private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Both airplanes were registered to and operated by the respective private pilots. Both personal flights were conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plans were filed for the planned flights that departed Hamburg Airport (4G2), Hamburg, New York, to Saint Mary's Municipal Airport (OYM), Saint Mary's Pennsylvania.

According to witnesses, the accident airplanes were the first two, from a flight of six, that were travelling to OYM for the pilots and passengers to have breakfast together. The Cessna departed first as it was a slower airplane and required more time to fly to OYM. The Piper departed second and two witnesses stated that they observed it climb into the Cessna and shear its tail off, followed by both airplanes descending rapidly to the ground.

Review of preliminary radar data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that a target consistent with the Piper departed runway 19 at 0919, and proceeded southeast. The last radar target was recorded at 0923:31, about 6 miles southeast of 4G2, indicating an altitude of 3,500 feet mean sea level (msl). Further review of the radar data indicated that the Piper had been level at 3,500 feet msl (plus or minus 100 feet), for about 50 seconds prior to the end of the data. The Cessna was not equipped with a transponder, nor was it required to be, and its flight was not recorded in the preliminary radar data; however, additional radar data (primary targets) were requested from the FAA.

Initial examination revealed three wreckage sites. The main wreckages of the Cessna and Piper were located in fields near the second to last radar target and last radar target, respectively. The empennage of the Cessna and an approximate 4-foot section of Piper's left outboard wing were located in a cornfield about .3 mile west of the Cessna's main wreckage. The Cessna's empennage exhibited four propeller cuts through its left side. The Piper's left wing section exhibited black rubber transfer, consistent with contact from one of the Cessna's landing gear tires.

Both main wreckages exhibited leading edge wing crushing along the entire span, consistent with nose-down vertical descents. Both cockpit sections were destroyed and only two readable instruments were recovered from the Cessna. No readable instruments were recovered from the Piper. Aileron control continuity was confirmed for the Cessna. Elevator and rudder control continuity were also confirmed from the Cessna's cockpit to the rear cabin area where the cables were separated and exhibited broomstraw features at the cable ends, consistent with overload. The Cessna's elevator trim tab was found in an approximately neutral position. Due to impact damage, control continuity could not be verified for the Piper.

The Cessna was a two-seat, high-wing, fixed tailwheel airplane, serial number 14849, manufactured in 1948. It was equipped with a Continental C85, 85-horsepower engine. The Piper was a four-seat, low-wing, fixed tricycle gear airplane, serial number 28-7125491, manufactured in 1971. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-320, 150-horsepower engine.

The pilot of the Cessna, age 60, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on October 9, 2014. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 786 hours. The pilot of the Piper, age 69, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on June 22, 2016. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 793 hours.

Chautauqua County Dunkirk Airport (DKK) was located 20 miles west of the accident site. The recorded weather at DKK, at 0953, was: wind calm, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, altimeter 30.26 inches Hg.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Richard Walker

NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. - The Erie County Sheriffs Department has identified the three people who died when two planes collided over North Collins, N.Y.  on Sunday morning. Paul Rosiek, 60, Hamburg; Richard Walker, 69 and Kathleen Walker, 69, both of Eden, N.Y.

Paul Rosiek was flying solo when his plane collided and crashed in a field.

The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. near School Street, Jennings and Eden Roads in North Collins. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed a Cessna 120 and Piper PA 28 made contact and crashed.

The two planes were part of a group of six flights headed from Hamburg Airfield  to St. Mary's, Pennsylvania.

"They would go for Sunday morning breakfast," said fellow pilot Jerry Malachowski. "In aviation circles, going to fly to eat is called going to get the $100 hamburger."

Kathleen Walker is a retired school teacher. She spent over three decades in the North Collins Central School District where she was a kindergarten teacher. Her husband Richard retired as a printer from Quebecor. He was also a sailor.   Mike Sendor remembers his friend of 33-years as a person always willing to help others. The Eden couple has one daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon. "They are wonderful parents," said Sendor.

The NTSB is still has investigators on site. They believe a preliminary report will be available within ten days but the investigation could last around one year.

Story and video:

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Robert J. Gretz and Erie County Sheriff Det. Capt. Greg Savage spell out the investigation and identify the victims at the scene of the fatal North Collins plane crash on Monday morning. 

They belonged to what came to be known as the Sunday breakfast club – six pilots flying their planes out of Hamburg Airport.

At first, pilot Bill Drew of Eden wasn’t aware of the deadly midair collision involving two of the other planes Sunday morning. He had been the fifth of six pilots to take off for St. Marys, Pa., a little more than 100 miles away. Drew’s wife, Geri, sat beside him.

“The six of us use the same radio frequency, and you always keep the plane ahead of you in sight” and share each other’s altitude level with one another, Drew said.

They belonged to what came to be known as the Sunday breakfast club – six pilots flying their planes out of Hamburg Airport.

At first, pilot Bill Drew of Eden wasn’t aware of the deadly midair collision involving two of the other planes Sunday morning. He had been the fifth of six pilots to take off for St. Marys, Pa., a little more than 100 miles away. Drew’s wife, Geri, sat beside him.

“The six of us use the same radio frequency, and you always keep the plane ahead of you in sight” and share each other’s altitude level with one another, Drew said.

But the usual communication among the pilots was missing as he guided his low-wing Grumman Cheetah through the sky about 9:30 a.m.

Still, that didn’t alarm him initially, because he said the planes climb altitude at different rates.

An Eden couple - Richard and Kathleen Walker, both 69 - took off second in their Piper Cherokee, just a bit behind their friend, Paul Rosiek, 60, of Hamburg, who flew first in his Cessna 120.

“I never heard from Walker or Rosiek on the radio at all, but the other three planes did,” Drew told The News in an interview in his home about nine hours after the crash.

“By the time I got up, and heard no reply from them ... I suspect it had already happened,” Drew said.

The third plane, Drew later learned, had received a phone message from a friend that there had been a small plane accident.

When the pilot of the third plane turned back to Hamburg, so did Drew, who was over the Bradford, Pa., airport at the time.

“The Hamburg airport got a hold of us in the air as we headed back,” Drew said. “An instructor radioed me, and said, ‘Bill, the planes went down.’ The sheriff wanted to know how many souls were on board,” Drew recalled. “I said to him, ‘How bad?’ He said, ‘Real bad.’ ”

The investigation

The planes piloted by Walker and Rosiek collided in the bright blue skies above School Street in North Collins, killing all aboard.

North Collins farmer Mike Stefan called 911 after seeing the aircraft collide.

“I think he lifted up to see where his friend was,” Stefan said of the lower plane. “They were so high up in the air that they looked like they were crawling. It literally took 20 to 30 seconds for them to hit the ground.”
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Erie County Sheriff’s Office worked Monday to piece together what went wrong just before 9:30 a.m. Sunday when Stefan saw the planes collide in midair a short distance from his farm at School Street and Jennings Road.

Authorities found wreckage at three sites.

About 80 percent of Rosiek's Cessna landed on the north side of School Street in a small swath of open land between a home at 2860 School and a metal storage building.

Wreckage from Walker’s Piper aircraft was found about 400 yards away on the south side of School Street in a hay field.  The tail of the Cessna and a 4-foot section of the Piper’s wingtip were found about 200 feet apart in a cornfield on nearby Larkin Road, said Robert J. Gretz, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Gretz briefed reporters Monday a short distance from the bulk of Rosiek’s plane wreckage. All of the wreckage was expected to be removed by late Monday.

The NTSB investigation is expected to take six to 12 months, with a preliminary report expected to be filed on the agency’s website in about 10 days. The initial report will address what happened and the location, but not detail the cause.

Gretz also indicated that autopsies and toxicology reports are expected to be done on the three victims.

“We will probably try to match the witness statements with the impact marks on the wreckages,” Gretz said. “We will still be looking at the winds (at the time) and the radar data.”

No distress calls were heard from the pilots, and the other pilots flying in the group did not receive any communication, Gretz said.

Radar contact with the two planes was lost at 9:23 a.m. Sunday, one minute before the farmer's 911 call.

“I don’t believe there was a pre-arranged plan to fly in formation,” Gretz said of the six planes that flew out of Hamburg Airport.

The Cessna was a high-wing plane, making it difficult to see above, he said. The Piper is a low-wing plane, making it difficult to see below.

However, witnesses say the Piper was climbing up into the Cessna, so based on the witness statements, "the blind spots would not be consistent with that collision angle," Gretz said.

None of the other pilots whom sheriff’s investigators interviewed witnessed the crash, said Erie County Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Greg Savage.

The collision occurred about eight to nine miles from where the planes took off from the Hamburg Airport,

Multi-colored tarps were lifted from the mangled pieces of wreckage Monday by sheriff’s deputies for the NTSB to inspect.

Losing friends

For Drew, the crash killed a best friend of some 40 years. Richard Walker lived just 1,000 feet away in the same neighborhood off Eckhardt Road. Walker was the reason Drew took up flying. The two were close sailing and hunting buddies, as well.

Richard Walker was retired from a local publishing company. Kathleen Walker was a retired North Collins kindergarten teacher.

Drew also lost his close flying buddy, Rosiek, who ran a plumbing company and enjoyed target shooting with Drew at the Boston Valley Conservation Club.

The three - Drew, Walker and Rosiek - all learned to fly together at Hamburg Airport about 18 years ago. Drew and Walker were fixtures at the airport off Heltz Road.

“He and I were ‘the twins’ at the Hamburg Airport,” said Drew, 75. “We were always together.”

Their passion for flying was born about 20 years ago when one day, Walker came to visit Drew, who was 55 at the time and recovering from cancer.

“He came over with some books on flying and said we should try it,” Drew recalled.

Drew had not been in a plane since he was 15, but decided to give it a go.

“We took flying lessons together, and before we had our license, we’d go to breakfast and then go flying” on Sunday mornings as we trained at the Hamburg Airport, he said.

The two got their pilot licenses in 1998. Rosiek happened to be taking flying lessons at the same time.

“Once we got our licenses, we both bought planes and we’d get a group together and meet at the airport. If it was flying weather, we’d all go out to breakfast,” Drew said. Sometimes, their wives came, and other times, just a few of them came.

‘Emotions in check’

With Drew knowing the grave circumstances, he piloted his plane back to Hamburg, knowing he’d likely lost three friends.

How did he stay calm?

“The first thing they teach you is, ‘Fly the plane,’ ” Drew said.

“You have to keep your emotions in check. Sullenberger did it,” Drew said, recalling how Chesley Sullenberger III, captain of US Airways Flight 1549 successfully landed his disabled aircraft on the Hudson River off Manhattan in January 2009.

After landing in Hamburg, the Drews learned all three had died in the crash. They went to visit Rosiek’s wife and then drove back to the airport, where pilots and friends gathered to grieve and reminisce.

What went wrong in the North Collins skies remains a mystery. Drew noted how it’s difficult to see “out of a plane, up or down” and not “behind you at all.”

He also does not suspect there were any stunts going on in the air at the time of the crash.

“They do not do stunts. Rosiek was adamant about that,” Drew said.

Drew, retired from construction work, vowed to keep flying despite Sunday’s tragedy.

In fact, he expects some of the pilots will continue their breakfast tradition next weekend.

“I think there will be breakfast club next Sunday. They would want it,” he said of the Walkers and Rosiek


LAKE VIEW, N.Y. -- The three people who died Sunday when two small planes collided over North Collins were a part of the local pilot community, members of which said the collision appears to be a tragic accident. 

Authorities said Paul Rosiek, 60, of Hamburg was piloting a Cessna 120 that collided with another plane, a Piper PA 28, around 9:25 a.m. Sunday carrying Richard and Kathleen Walker, both 69, of Eden. Witnesses told police Kathleen was a local teacher.

The planes were two of six that took off from an airport in Hamburg headed to Saint Mary's Airport in Pennsylvania. 

"They did this regularly. They were a close-knit group. They did things like having a movie night, hot dogs. It was a nice social group," Jerry Malahowski said. 

Malachowski learned to fly at the Hamburg Airport 50 years ago and has kept his plane there for nearly a decade. 

"These things just happen. There are angles at which when you're flying an airplane that you can't see anything, especially if you're flying over somebody or under somebody," said Malahowski. "You just can't see it.

"There's airplane in the way. Of course, with the wings, if you have a high wing airplane like one of these was, then you can't see up because you got this like umbrella over you." 

The Hamburg Airport is located on Heltz Road. The owners, Rod and Charlotte Walsh, have been here for 26 years and they say they've never seen an accident like this before.

"It's such a blow that this should happen. They're very capable. They looked after their plane. This was just very unusual," Rod Walsh said.  

Though this is a tough loss for the Hamburg community, Walsh says more regulation isn't necessary. 

"They're not in a big traffic area where there's a problem with heavy traffic. This is away from the major airports and there's no need for it."

The Hamburg Airport currently serves about 30 small airplanes each year.

The NTSB stated the planes were not in contact with air traffic control and were not required to be because they were in a rural airspace and were not close to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The preliminary report on the crash will be due in about 10 days. The final report won't be completed for about six to 12 months.

Story and video:

NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. (WIVB) — A local aviation expert is weighing in on the North Collins plane crash.

Pilot Bob Miller calls this an extremely rare event. Miller tells News 4 there are less than a dozen similar crashes in the United States each year.

He said the planes that collided Sunday were flying in formation, which means two or more aircraft are flying together.

“Formation flying is a skill and it requires a bit of training,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, it’s something that pilots can see as easy to do, ‘let’s just go off and fly together’, much like two cars going down the Thruway at the same time. But things happen a bit quicker in the air, and if they get too close or if one isn’t watching the other one, if they do collide, generally there’s airframe damage to one or both airplanes.”

Miller said in a crash like this one, it comes down to pilot error.

“Sometimes on a bright day like today, you can lose the other aircraft in the sun, and when that happens, there’s temporary blindness,” Miller said. “There are blind spots on an airplane, and flying in formation, of course, both pilots are constantly looking out for each other. But when you’re flying in a pattern where you’re not expecting anyone real close, your attention maybe diverted momentarily to something else.”

Miller said planes like this fly at about two miles a minute so an accident can happen very quickly.

Sunday’s plane crash comes just two years after 14-year-old James Metz and his 78-year-old pilot Anthony Mercurio were killed when their small plane collided with another one in Lancaster. It happened in 2014 in mid-air during an event organized by the local chapter of Experimental Aircraft Association. Authorities said pilot error caused that crash.

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NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. (WKBW) - The Erie County Sheriff's Office tells 7 Eyewitness News there has been some kind of an aircraft accident in North Collins.

According to reports, one of the planes was located near School Street. 

School Street is closed between Jennings and Larkin Roads.

There are reports of a fatality involved with this crash, but 7 Eyewitness News has not been able to confirm any fatalities or injuries.

Reports also indicate 'heavy wreckage' with this crash.

Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been notified, and the Erie County Sheriff's Office is securing the scene for them.

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NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. - Emergency crews are at the scene of a plane crash involving two small planes.

It happened around 9 a.m. Sunday morning. The Erie Co. Sheriff's Department was alerted to the crash by a witness who called 911.  The scene is centered around School Street, Jennings and Eden Roads.  The debris from one of the two planes is on the north side of Jennings Road, the other plane is located on the south side of Jennings Road. 

The NTSB says three people died.  Two on one plane, one on the other.  Officials say they were headed to St. Mary, Pennsylvania.   No names are being released at this time. 

A witness told a Channel 2 photographer at the scene that he saw two planes collide.  Deputies believe the planes took off from the Hamburg Airport and were headed to Pennsylvania when the crash occurred.  The FAA confirmed to 2 On Your Side that a Cessna 120 and a Piper PA 28 made contact in flight and crashed.

Deputies believe the planes took off from the Hamburg Airport and were headed to Pennsylvania when the crash occurred. 

They are asking people to avoid the area while they continue their investigation.

Story and video:

Mike Stefan regularly sees small aircraft soaring over his hay farm in North Collins, so he wasn’t surprised to see a group of planes flying far overhead on Sunday, a clear, bright morning.

But then he saw two of the planes, flying side by side, appear to come together, one on top of the other.

What happened next horrified him.

“And then the bottom one came up into the top one, and his wing hit, maybe, the tail of the other plane,” Stefan said. “The top plane literally disintegrated.”

Three people died in the midair collision and crash, which are under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. The crash left a debris field over a one-quarter to one-half-mile section of School Street, between Larkin and Eden roads in North Collins, officials said.

One of the victims was flying a Cessna 120, and the other two victims were flying in a Piper PA-28-140, according to an administrator at Hamburg Airport and aircraft registration records.

The victims were among a group of six aircraft flying from the Hamburg Airport to a small airport in Pennsylvania to get a meal on Sunday morning, officials said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, with the NTSB investigator likely to issue his preliminary report within two weeks.

But veteran pilots said collisions can happen even in ideal flying conditions, and the crash has rattled the close-knit community of flyers at Hamburg Airport.

“We’re all shaking in our boots now,” Larry Walsh, the airport’s vice president, told The Buffalo News.

The group of six aircraft took off into blue skies at about 9 a.m. Sunday from the airport in Lake View, Walsh said, on their way to St. Marys Municipal Airport in St. Marys, Pa.

The two pilots were experienced amateur pilots, each with at least 15 years of flying, Walsh said. Both planes, the Cessna and the Piper, are single-engine, fixed-wing planes.

Walsh said he didn’t know the cause of the crash but even on a clear day, with good visibility, one pilot can lose sight of another; for example, if one flies underneath or above the other.

“There are a number of blind spots,” Walsh said.

The first 911 call came in from a cellphone at 9:24 a.m., sheriff’s officials said.

“We have several eyewitnesses who saw the planes approaching before there was contact,” said Scott Joslyn, chief of patrol services.

Stefan was one of them. He said he made the 911 call after watching the two planes collide. He said the planes took more than 20 seconds to fall to the ground.

A third plane remained overhead, circling the crash site for a time, Stefan said, while the fourth plane traveled on, appearing to not have realized what had happened. Stefan never saw the fifth and sixth planes that took off from Hamburg.

Stefan and his 12-year-old son, Ryan, raced over to the crash site.

“My immediate thought was, how are we going to find it? The corn is 10 feet high out here,” Mike Stefan said.

Karen Ricotta, a North Collins town justice who lives on School Street, said she heard a noise at about 9:30 a.m. “And when I looked outside, you could see something next door on a mowed farm field. I couldn’t identify what it was,” Ricotta told The News. “But when I went outside, another man driving by pulled in my yard and told me it was a plane in the field. I called 911, but they already had been called.”

The crash sites for the two aircraft are about 400 yards apart, Joslyn said, one on the south side of School Street and one on the north side.

North Collins Supervisor John M. Tobia said the devastation from the crash could have been worse.

“It missed a house by 100 feet,” Tobia said. One aircraft landed in a field and the other landed between a metal storage building and a wooded area, the supervisor said.

“It’s like a pancake; it’s crushed,” Tobia said. “You can’t tell it’s an aircraft.”

Brian Schmitt lives at School Street and Jennings Road near the two crash sites. “I’m upset. I’m shocked that you could be in the air one minute and dead the next,” said Schmitt, a member of Langford Volunteer Fire Company, which responded to the crash.

Erie County sheriff’s personnel preserved the scene until federal investigators could get to the area. They were assisted by the North Collins and Langford fire companies, Eden police and North Collins rescue.

The Erie County medical examiner also was called. Roads in the immediate area were closed for several hours Sunday.

“Locating any piece of those crafts all tell a tale,” Joslyn said. “It’s going to be real important to have a good search of the area.”

The FAA sent a team from Rochester and the NTSB investigator was driving in Sunday from New York City, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the safety board.

The safety board investigator would begin work either Sunday evening, if he arrived while it was still daylight, or first thing Monday morning, Knudson said.

The investigator will collect perishable evidence, including any relevant radar images of the flights, recorded conversations with the pilots, witness interviews, flight plans, data from GPS or other electronic devices in the planes or that the passengers were carrying, Knudson said.

“They want to get that stuff documented,” he said.

A preliminary report should be available within two weeks, but the entire accident investigation likely will take 12 months, Knudson said.

Not much was immediately known about the two pilots.

However, the passenger was identified as a retired kindergarten teacher at North Collins Elementary School by Schmitt and by Stefan, who is on the North Collins School Board.

Sunday's tragedy isn't the first time that two planes have collided in Western New York skies with deadly consequences. Almost exactly two years ago – on Sept. 27, 2014 – two people died in a crash in Lancaster when one single-engine aircraft clipped another.

“It was a perfect clear day,” Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Greg Savage said at a media briefing Sunday, “just like it was in the Lancaster crash.”

The two small planes were preparing to land at Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport, one in front of the other on the same flight path, just like countless planes on other landing paths at airports every day. Coming up from behind, the bigger, faster Cessna descended and struck a smaller experimental aircraft, called a Searey, before spiraling out of control to the ground.

Anthony Mercurio, 78, was flying in a small plane with James Metz, 14. Both were killed. The pilot of the other plane and that plane's passenger, a 9-year-old girl, survived.

The two youngsters and volunteer pilots were taking part in an event at the Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport designed to introduce young people to the thrill of flying.

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