Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sonex, N315AL: Fatal accident occurred February 28, 2017 near Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM), Essex County, Massachusetts

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Boston, Massachusetts

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report / National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 

Alan P. Lavender: http://registry.faa.gov/315ALN

NTSB Identification: ERA17FA117
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, February 28, 2017 in Methuen, MA
Aircraft: LAVENDER ALAN P SONEX, registration: N315AL
Injuries: 1 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 February 28, 2017, about 1302 eastern standard time, an experimental-amateur-built Sonex, N315AL, collided with a building in Methuen, Massachusetts, while on approach for landing at Lawrence Municipal Airport (LWM), Lawrence, Massachusetts. The sport pilot/owner/operator was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local, personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot purchased 12 gallons of fuel about 1245 and departed in the airplane from runway 14, about 10 minutes later. The pilot informed the LWM air traffic control (ATC) tower that he would be remaining in the traffic pattern to practice takeoffs and landings. The pilot was subsequently cleared to make a "left-closed" traffic pattern and to report "mid-field downwind." The pilot acknowledged and reported the airplane's position when he was mid-field at an altitude of 1,400 feet above ground level (agl).

At 1302, the airplane was cleared to land, but the pilot never acknowledged the clearance. According to LWM ATC tower personnel, immediately after turning left onto the final approach leg of the traffic pattern the airplane, which was about 500 feet agl made a shallow s-turn maneuver to the left, then back to the right before it suddenly nosed over in a right turn and disappeared out of view.

Several witnesses driving on the nearby highway saw the airplane approach from the north, then make a sudden nose down "dive" before disappearing behind trees. Additional witnesses reported that they saw the belly of the airplane "engulfed in flames" and described the flames as "very bright red." In addition, one witness reported that fire was coming out near the propeller as the airplane descended.

Initial examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane struck the roof of the three story condominium complex located approximately 1,600 feet from the approach end of runway 14. The airplane entered the attic and upper bedrooms of a residence in a nose-low attitude with the empennage partially protruding from the roof. Both wings remained attached and were bent aft approximately 45°. The engine separated and was found upright, 5 feet forward and to the left of the fuselage. It exhibited fire damage on its left side. The two-blade fixed P-Tip wood propeller blades separated 12 inches outboard from the propeller hub. The 17 gallon fuel tank was intact and mounted in its normal position aft of the firewall. It contained approximately 7 gallons of fuel. Fuel lines leading from the fuel tank were severed during the collision and were leaking when the fire department arrived on scene. The buildings fire suppression system activated.

The two-seat, single-engine, low-wing, tailwheel airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category on May 4, 2016. It was equipped with a Jabiru 3300L, six cylinder 120 horsepower reciprocating engine.

According to pilot logbook records, the pilot received his sport pilot certificate on May 21, 2014. He had logged a total of 28.4 hours as of October 8, 2016. Various maintenance was performed on the airplane during the months prior to the accident flight. In an email 2 days prior to the accident, the pilot reported that he completed maintenance and started the airplane with no issues, but elected not to fly because of the winds.

The weather conditions reported at LWM, at 1254, included: wind variable at 4 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, scattered clouds at 9,000 feet, temperature 13° C, dew point -2° C, and an altimeter setting of 30.35 inches of mercury.

The airplane was recovered and retained for further examination.

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



Al Lavender 





METHUEN — Emergency 911 calls released by the Methuen Police Department on Wednesday afternoon suggest the plane that crashed into a condominium Tuesday had caught fire in the air.

A woman driving on nearby Interstate 495 called 911 and said she saw the plane go down in flames.

Caller: I'm on (Interstate) 495 near Exit 46.

Dispatch: North or South?

Caller: Uh, North.

Dispatch: OK what's going on there?

Caller: We, um, we're on 495 and we just saw a plane crash on the side of the road, very close to the road.

Dispatch: OK, let me transfer you right over to the — do you know what town it crashed in?

Caller: Lawrence. It was heading toward the small airport that's down here.

Dispatch: OK, let me transfer you to Lawrence, don't hang up.

A Lawrence dispatcher picked up the line, and the caller restated her location.

Caller: We just saw a plane crash. It's a small plane headed toward the smaller airport, and it started catching on fire ... "

The recording released by police ends in the middle of the woman's sentence.

Another 911 caller on I-495 North also said he saw the plane in flames as it flew through the air.

Caller: I just saw a plane go down. It was on fire. It crashed what looked like right next to the Merrimack River.

Dispatch: By the Merrimack River?

Caller: Yeah, there was a red plane, um small passenger plane ...

Dispatch: OK, hang on I'm going to transfer you. Is it closer to the Lawrence line do you think?

Caller: I mean it looked like they were heading for the Lawrence airport.

Dispatch: OK, stay on the line. I'm going to transfer you over to Lawrence.

The dispatcher in Lawrence picked up, and the caller restated his location.

Caller: I was on the highway, I saw a plane go down near the Merrimack River, a small red plane, I was just south of exit 46 on 495 North.

Dispatch: It was a red plane?

Caller: Yes, a red plane, in the air, on fire, and it went down right near the Merrimack River. It looked like it was heading to the Lawrence airport.

Dispatch: OK, is it in the water or on the side?

Caller: I'm assuming, you know, hopefully they made it to the water but it —

Again, the recording of the call ends mid-sentence.

Inside the Prides Crossing condominium complex, a caller believed an explosion had occurred rather than a plane crash.

Dispatch: 911 where is your emergency?

Caller: Uh, Building 7, we just had an explosion that blew through the roof. It's at um ...

Dispatch: At what address?

Caller: 1 Riverview Boulevard.

Dispatch: What city?

Caller: Methuen

Dispatch: OK, hold on. Methuen's coming right on the line, sir. Do not hang up. Is everybody out of the building safe?

Caller: I can't tell that. I'm from another building.

A dispatcher from Methuen picked up and asked what the emergency is.

Caller: We had an explosion at Prides Crossing ...

Dispatcher: I have everyone started that way, sir. Are you injured?

Caller: No, I'm from another building, but now I can see flames coming from the roof.

Some chatter between the two dispatchers can be heard and the tape ends.

No one on the ground at the crash scene was injured. The pilot, former Newburyport Mayor Alan Lavender, 73, was killed.

An investigation into the crash is being conducted by National Transportation Safety Board officials, who are looking into "the pilot, the aircraft and the environment" to piece together what happened. 

Air safety investigator Aaron McCarter said he and the NTSB were going through a process of corroborating witness statements about the crash. He added that the NTSB has not yet been able to determine if there were any electronic devices aboard the experimental Sonex aircraft that could help identify the cause of the crash.

McCarter said the NTSB is “very interested in what witnesses have to say” and is asking for any witnesses or anyone who has photos or video of the crash to email witness@ntsb.gov.


Source: http://www.eagletribune.com






METHUEN -- A preliminary investigation into what caused a home-built plane to crash into a Methuen condominium complex is underway, with National Transportation Safety Board officials looking into the pilot, the aircraft and the environment to piece together what happened.

Representatives from the NTSB arrived at the scene around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and have been in and out of the building, part of the Prides Crossing development in Methuen, ever since.

Air safety investigator Aaron McCarter held a press conference outside the building shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, saying that the NTSB is “just now getting started with our investigation.”

Around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday, a single-engine, two-seater experimental Sonex aircraft was on approach to runway 14 at Lawrence Municipal Airport, about a half-mile from the crash site. In addition to referring to unproven designs, the term "experimental" in aviation is used as a designation for home-built aircraft, even those based on well established designs.

“Witnesses reported that the airplane took a steep descent and disappeared behind the trees and subsequently crashed into this building through the third floor and the roof,” McCarter said.

In their investigation, McCarter said the NTSB would be examining “the man, the machine and the environment.”

That includes the pilot, former Newburyport mayor Al Lavender, who was killed in the crash, his training, qualifications and experience in the aircraft.

The NTSB will also examine the aircraft itself, the engineering of the plane – it has an Australian-made engine, for instance – and the environment, including air traffic control and the geography of the area.

“How all those three things fit together is part of a much larger, holistic process that’s going to take place after we leave here in three to four days,” McCarter said.

Most of the NTSB investigation will take place at its headquarters, far from the crash site, he said.

The NTSB is “very interested in what witnesses have to say” and is asking for any witnesses or anyone who has photos or video of the crash to email witness@ntsb.gov.

McCarter said he expects to be at the scene for up to four days. Part of that will include removing the plane from the building, where it remained Wednesday morning covered with a tarp and concealed behind a boarded-up window.

“It’s a complicated removal,” McCarter said, noting that “the floor, the beams and the attic are kind of holding it up.”

McCarter said a salvage company had been contacted and was expected to arrive Wednesday to do an assessment.

Resident Diane Klein-Peyser was able to return to her apartment Wednesday morning to grab more of her belongings. Wheeling a suitcase outside, she still appeared shaken by the incident.

“It’s just scary, it’s very, very scary,” she said. “That airport, we’ve had issues with (the airport) time and time again.”

Klein-Peyser said she spent Tuesday night with her sister in Marlborough following the plane crash, and was only able to get inside the building briefly that afternoon to grab a few belongings.

“It was get in, get out,” she said.

She had a bit more time in the building today.

“They told us to pack for a few days and we’ll see,” she said, unsure of when she would be allowed back into her home.

Klein-Peyser said she and her neighbors would come together to help those whose condos were directly hit by the plane.


Story and video:  http://www.eagletribune.com





METHUEN — A former Newburyport mayor died when his plane plunged into the roof of a Methuen housing development during an attempted landing Tuesday at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

A small fire broke out after the private plane crashed into two condos in the Prides Crossing complex around 1 p.m. Nobody was home at the time, and all other residents of the Riverside Boulevard building were able to get out safely, Methuen officials said.

The victim was former Newburyport Mayor Alan Lavender, 73, according to a Newburyport city councilor and an official briefed on the case.

City Councilman Robert J. Cronin described Lavender as “an avid outdoorsman” who was interested in experimental aircraft and planes from World War II. “He had a wealth of information about flying. He just enjoyed it,” Cronin said.

Lavender was elected mayor in 2001, and he had “a high moral compass,” Cronin said.

“He always tried to do the right thing. He tried to be something to everybody,” he said. “He worked hard, and he worked tirelessly for the community.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said the private plane was a Sonex aircraft making its final approach for a landing on Runway 14 at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

It was about a mile out from the airport, which is located in North Andover, when it crashed shortly after 1 p.m. The crash will be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, officials said.

At the complex, the tail of a plane could be seen protruding from the roof of a multi-unit structure.

In airport radio traffic recorded by liveatc.net, the pilot could be heard talking calmly with the airport tower shortly after 1 p.m. as he headed toward the runway.

Just minutes later, the tower radioed a different pilot, saying, “I just heard the last airplane went down,” and asked the second pilot to “make a circle over there and see if you can find out exactly where he is.”

The plane hit a 12-unit building, and the 34 people who live there will not be able to return home Tuesday, according to Methuen officials.

Mark Holden, a Red Cross supervisor, arrived to see the plane sticking out of the roof and still smoking. By 3 p.m., he had talked to about 10 families who lived in the building, and he expected more to rush down to the complex as word spread.

Nancy Downey was on the first floor of the building when the plane crashed. She said she heard a loud boom, heard the smoke alarms going off, and stepped outside.

“It was raining insulation,” she said.

Vanessa Barone was home with her infant son, Enzo, when a loud noise startled her and woke the five-month-old from a nap.

“He woke up crying, but I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “I just heard like a loud sound. I wasn’t sure what it was.”

She came outside soon after to see the first emergency vehicles arriving, and the tail of the plane sticking out of the roof of a building across the complex.

A seven-year resident of the complex, she said she had often joked nervously about the noise and sight of low-flying planes.

“I always joke with my husband that they’re going to crash into the building, but I never thought it would actually happen.”

It’s not the first time that a plane has crashed at the complex. In January 1999, four people were injured when a small, single-engine plane crashed after taking off from the airport across the river.

The plane flipped in midair, hit the ground, and skidded to a stop just three feet short of Prides Crossing, according to reports from the time.

A similar incident happened at the complex in 1991, Methuen Mayor Stephen N. Zanni said.

Methuen officials said one emergency caller reported that the plane might have been trying to land in a nearby pond, while another reported that the aircraft was headed straight down, potentially releasing fuel, Zanni said.

Methuen Fire Chief Tim Sheehy said at the scene that sprinklers in the building helped control the fire, limiting the damage as firefighters rushed into heavy smoke to douse the blaze.

“If somebody was home, it would have been a lot worse, obviously,” he said.

Zanni said the city would be looking into safety at the airport, citing the previous incidents. He noted that it had been many years since there had been such a crash.

“We want to make the residents secure,” he said. “We’re going to look at all factors that occurred here.”

Source:  https://www.bostonglobe.com

Methuen Police Captain Randy Haggar spoke to the press.






METHUEN, Mass. -- A pilot was killed Tuesday afternoon after a small plane crashed into an apartment building.

CBS Boston reports the crash happened just before 1:30 p.m. in the city of Methuen, about 30 miles northwest of Boston. There are no reports of any other casualties or injuries.

Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni did not identify the pilot, but said he was a former city councilor in Newburyport. CBS Boston later confirmed his name is Al Lavender, who served one term as mayor of Newburyport.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot was attempting to land the plane when it went down.

“A Sonex aircraft crashed in a residential area in Methuen, MA at about 1:25 p.m. today,” the FAA said. “The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine the probable cause for the accident.”

The building was on fire following the crash, police said. All residents were able to safely escape the 12-unit building. No one was home in the apartment where the plane came to a rest.

One woman on the first floor said parts of her ceiling came crashing down on her when the plane hit the building.

Vera Kimball lives in the condominium complex, and said she heard “a big and loud noise, nothing like I ever heard before.” 

“Then all of a sudden all the smoke alarms went off, and I went outside my back, and stuff was coming off the roof,” Kimball said. “It was the insulation.”

“We just got out, we automatically got out,” she continued. “We smelled smoke. You couldn’t stay in, because the noise from the smoke alarms. They all went off the 12 units. And then we came out, and they wouldn’t let us go back.”

The tail of the plane could be seen sticking out of the roof of the three-story complex.

Rich Ward was driving on Interstate 495 South when he saw the plane in flames in the air.

“I’ve never witnessed anything like that in my life. I can’t get it out of my head,” Ward told CBS Boston.

Keith Lontine lives less than a mile from the apartment building. He told CBS Boston he did not see flames coming from the plane before it crashed.

“I watched it fall out of the sky,” said Lontine.

Lotine said he regularly watches aircraft landing at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

“I did not hear the impact. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know if I was seeing things,” Lotine said. “I was looking for smoke, I ran right up to the building, I didn’t see any smoke right away. Then all of a sudden, I seen people running out of the building, I heard sirens, and I just knew.”

Vincent Aprea, an experienced pilot who flies in the area, said the Sonex aircraft is known to have problems with the engine overheating.

“The Sonex aircraft is designed as a motor glider,” said Aprea. “It’s designed to take off, fly like a conventional airplane, and then with the power off, meaning the motor shut down, glide to a landing.”

The plane was described as an “experimental” aircraft.

In 1999, a plane with four people on board lost power after takeoff and crashed in the same apartment complex. The plane came to a rest against the building and no one was seriously injured.

Source:  http://www.cbsnews.com





METHUEN (CBS) – The pilot killed when he crashed into a Methuen condominium has been identified as the former city councilor and mayor of Newburyport.

Al Lavender was killed in a Tuesday afternoon crash on Riverview Blvd. in Methuen.

Lavender previously served as a Newburyport city councilor and was also mayor from 2000-2003.

“He was a kind, gentle person,” said current Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday.

Holaday said she was surprised to learn following the crash that Lavender was a pilot. Holaday added that Lavender was an avid boater in Newburyport.

Lavender was attempting to land at Lawrence Municipal Airport Tuesday around 1:30 p.m. when he crashed into the roof of Pride’s Crossing Condo Complex.

“Our community has suffered a tremendous loss today and our thoughts and prayers are with the Lavender family,” Holaday said.















Authorities are investigating after a small plane crashed into a multi-condo building in Methuen, Massachusetts, killing the pilot, a former mayor of Newburyport.

It happened on Riverview Boulevard, across the Merrimack River from the Lawrence Municipal Airport, around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Methuen police and FAA officials say the 60-year-old male pilot was the only person on board the single-engine Sonex aircraft, which originated from Lawrence Municipal Airport, at the time of the crash and died at the scene.

The plane was on a one-mile final approach to Lawrence Municipal Airport when it crashed into a condo at Prides Crossing on Riverview Boulevard, the FAA added.

Although the name of the deceased pilot has not been officially released by investigators pending next-of-kin notification, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said Alan "Al" Lavender, who served as Newburyport's mayor from 2002 to 2003 and as a city councilor for eight years before that, was killed in Tuesday's crash.

Holaday called Lavender's death "a big loss for our city."

"He was such a caring and giving person," she said, adding that he encouraged her to first run for city council and eventually for the mayor's job.

The condo complex was the site of another small aircraft crash in 1999.

No residents were injured in the crash, which was contained to the building's attic, according to Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni.

The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine a likely cause for the crash, according to officials.

Skies were partly cloudy with calm winds and a 10-mile visibility at the time of the crash, meteorologist Michael Page said.

Source:  http://www.nbcconnecticut.com

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