Thursday, April 13, 2017

Howard DGA-15P, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, N4476N: Fatal accident occurred April 12, 2017 at Rostraver Airport (KFWQ), Monongahela, Pennsylvania

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allegheny, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics: 

NTSB Identification: ERA17FA153 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Monongahela, PA
Aircraft: HOWARD AIRCRAFT DGA 15P, registration: N4476N
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 April 12, 2017, about 1430 eastern daylight time, a Howard Aircraft DGA 15P, N4476N, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during a go-around at Rostraver Airport (FWQ), Monongahela, Pennsylvania. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and operated by the commercial pilot as personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from Allegheny County Airport (AGC), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about 1305.

According to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), no air traffic control services were requested or provided after the flight departed from AGC. Review of radar data revealed that prior to flying to FWQ, the airplane's radar track disappeared and reappeared, consistent with airwork in the local area, sometimes in areas below radar coverage.

According to witnesses at FWQ, the airplane was attempting to land on runway 26, a 4,002-foot-long, 75-foot-wide, asphalt runway. The airplane initially touched down left of runway centerline, but then became airborne and the engine noise increased. The airplane subsequently yawed and banked left, perpendicular to the runway, and the nose pitched up. At that point, the airplane appeared to stall and roll inverted, before impacting a ravine about 400 feet left of the runway.

One of the witnesses watched the accident from the airport restaurant, after completing several landings in a Cessna 172. That witness added that although the automated weather observation system was indicating the wind was from 290° at 5 knots, he encountered a wind gust during his last landing, which lifted his airplane's right wing and caused it to drift left.

Examination of the accident site revealed ground scars in the grass about 200 feet left of the runway, about halfway down the runway. Red paint chips, consistent with wingtip, were observed in the ground scars. An impact crater was noted about 350 feet left of the runway, which contained a separated 8-inch section of propeller blade. The main wreckage came to rest upright, oriented about a heading of 320 degrees magnetic and was consumed by postcrash fire. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the left and right aileron bellcranks to the mid-cabin area. Continuity was also confirmed from the stabilator and rudder to the mid-cabin area. No readable instruments were recovered from the cockpit.

The engine had separated from the airframe and was resting left of it. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub and exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise scratching. Additionally, both propeller blade tips had fractured off and were located near the impact crater. Due to impact damage, the crankshaft could not be rotated by hand.

The five-seat, high-wing, fixed tailwheel airplane was powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-985, 450-horsepower engine. The airplane logbooks were not recovered and presumed destroyed in the postcrash fire.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on May 9, 2016. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 1,091 hours. The pilot's logbook was not recovered and presumed destroyed in the postcrash fire.

The recorded weather at FWQ, at 1425, was: wind from 280° at 6 knots, varying from 240° to 320°; visibility 10 statute miles; clear sky; temperature 16° C; dew point 1° C; altimeter 30.31 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

John Graham III, 42, of Jefferson Hills

Airport officials and pilots in the region were stunned by an airplane crash Wednesday at Rostraver Airport that killed the president of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.

John Graham III, 42, of Jefferson Hills, died after he lost control of the antique Howard single-engine airplane he was using to practice “touch-and-go” landings and takeoffs at the airport in southwestern Westmoreland County at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The plane veered into some woods south of the runway, crashed and caught fire.

Graham was the third generation of his family since 1946 to own and operate the West Mifflin-based institute, which offers programs for aircraft maintenance, electronics, commercial drivers and heavy equipment operators. He also was an ambassador for the aviation community.

“Mr. Graham demonstrated the very highest values in business and was known for his kindness and compassion toward all students and staff of PIA,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Markle said in a statement Thursday. “His love for aviation and education will be his legacy, and he will be sorely missed by the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics community.”

Bob Kerlik, spokesman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said Graham was “a great partner” to the authority, which operates both the Allegheny County Airport, where the institute is based, and Pittsburgh International Airport.

“His passion and commitment to teaching students about aviation was an asset to our region,” Kerlik said.

Through the Allegheny County Airport Authority's Ready for Takeoff program, which aims to generate interest in aviation careers among middle- and high-school students, Graham would help mentor students in some of the career options available to them. For the last two years, he flew Westinghouse High School ninth-graders around the city to see their school from the air. Graham was scheduled to provide another such flight next month, Kerlik said.

Richard “Ike” Kelly, manager at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport and a member of the institute's board of directors, said he had known Graham since the man was an infant.

“He was a very competent individual, both in how he ran the institute and as a pilot,” Kelly said. “It's a great loss... It's left us in a daze since this occurred.”

Kelly said he did not know what the board's next steps would be for the school, which was closed Thursday with no one to answer calls.

“His vision for the education we provide, his commitment to high-quality operations, and his unwavering support for the career success of our graduates and alumni will be carried forth by our administrative team, our campus leaders, and each member of our faculty and professional staff,” Markle said in her statement.

“Our extended PIA family of faculty, staff, administration, students, and alumni are shaken by this sudden loss of our friend, colleague and mentor, but each of us will take solace in the opportunity we have to honor John Graham's legacy and vision in our daily work,” she said.

Markle said the school, which owned the 1940s-vintage Howard DGA-15P aircraft, was cooperating with investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were examining the plane's maintenance records, Graham's medical history, his communications with air traffic control and as many other data sources as possible, but a determination of the cause could still take 12 to 18 months.

A preliminary report on the crash — without pointing to a cause — may be available as soon as the end of next week.

Most of the Rostraver Airport had reopened by 8 a.m. Thursday following the crash, except for a section of the taxiway where Graham's plane went into the woods. That reopened later in the morning, said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority. 

Original article can be found here:

ROSTRAVER (KDKA) – One person was killed when a small plane went down and burst into flames at the Rostraver Airport Wednesday afternoon.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office has identified the victim as 42-year-old John Graham III of Jefferson Hills. Graham was the president and CEO of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.

According to emergency dispatchers, the initial report about the incident came in around 2:30 p.m.

The view from NewsChopper 2 showed only charred wreckage left of the vintage 1940’s Howard aircraft in a wooded area.

Officials say Graham was doing touch-and-go landings when something happened on approach. The aircraft was over the center line of the runway when it veered sharply left and went over the hill.

After it went down, it burst into flames.

“We had a single engine aircraft practicing touch-and-goes on the runway, somehow lost control of the aircraft, made a hard left… went down over the embankment and there was a fire upon the crash,” said Gabe Monzo, of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority.

The flames also caused brush fire concerns and crews worked to keep that under control.

The cause of the crash remains unknown.

“We’ve been involved with a lot of these through the years and you hate to see this kind of thing,” said Monzo. “It’s tough on everybody, tough on the aviation community. So, we’ll get through it and see what we can find out.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be called in to investigate.

The Rostraver Airport remains closed.

Meanwhile, an autopsy has been scheduled for Thursday.

Story and video:

A Jefferson Hills man was killed Wednesday afternoon when the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed near Rostraver Airport, the Westmoreland County coroner’s office said.

John Graham III, 42, was pronounced dead at 4:47 p.m. by Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner Joshua C. Zappone.

According to Gabe Monzo, executive director of the airport, Graham was practicing touch-and-go maneuvers on a runway when something went wrong and the plane veered to the left and over an embankment.

The 1940s Howard aircraft came to a rest in a wooded area and caught fire near the county-owned airport at 605 Airport Road in Rostraver Township. Graham was unable to extricate himself from the plane.

Rostraver fire department, emergency personnel and the Westmoreland County coroner responded to the scene.

The FAA and the NTSB will arrive at the airport Thursday morning to investigate the accident.

The airport will remain closed until 8 a.m. Thursday, Monzo said.

Rostraver Township fire chief Greg Resetar said the fire department received a call that a plane went down at 2:36 p.m.

“When we arrived, the plane was fully engulfed,” said Resetar.

Monzo said rescuers determined Graham was flying alone.

“It’s always tough,” said Monzo. “We’ve been involved with a lot of these over the years and you hate to see it. It’s tough on everybody, its tough on the aviation community.”

The cause and manner of Graham’s death are pending an autopsy that will be performed today. 

Original article can be found here:

A pilot died Wednesday when a plane went down as he practiced takeoffs at Rostraver Airport, authorities said.

His identity has not been released by the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office. Deputy Coroner Joshua Zappone arrived at the scene about an hour after the 2:40 p.m. crash.

Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which manages Rostraver Airport, said the pilot was the only occupant of the plane.

Monzo said the pilot was practicing “touch and goes” and appeared to have lost control. The plane made a hard left, then went over an embankment into a wooded area near the runway.

“It's tough on the aviation community,” Monzo said .

A “touch and go” involves landing on a runway and taking off again without coming to a full stop, circling the airport and repeating the maneuver, allowing the pilot to practice many landings in a short time.

The plane was engulfed in flames when first responders arrived, Rostraver police Chief Greg Resetar said.

Initial calls for emergency responders were for a plane crash with heavy black smoke in the area, according to county 911 dispatchers.

John Waltrowski, a pilot and airplane mechanic from Finleyville, Washington County, said he was at his hangar when the plane went down.

Waltrowski said the antique Howard plane, which was built in the 1930s and ‘40s, had flown out of Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin earlier Wednesday.

Owned by the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, the single-wing aircraft had been refurbished recently, and the pilot was test-flying it, Waltrowski said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said authorities were unable to confirm the type and registration number of the plane because of fire damage.

The FAA's database lists one Howard aircraft registered to the institute, a single-engine DGA-15P capable of carrying one pilot and up to four passengers. The database didn't list what year the plane was built, but that model was manufactured between 1939 and 1944.

A spokesman for the institute could not be reached for comment.

Monzo said about a dozen crashes have occurred at the Rostraver facility since he started working for the airport authority in 1985.

The last fatality at the airfield was in October 2014, when an ultralight helicopter flown by David Charletta, 62, of Sewickley Township crashed into a wooded ravine near the end of the runway.

The general aviation airport is off Route 51 in Rostraver Township. According to, 92 aircraft are based at the field, most of them single-engine planes. The facility averages 119 aircraft operations daily, 55 percent of them local planes. 

Original article can be found here:

A small plane has crashed at Rostraver Airport in Rostraver, Westmoreland County.

The crash occurred around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at the eastern end of the airport’s runway, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The aircraft was engulfed in flames, and heavy black smoke was pouring from the wreckage, the FAA said.

The Westmoreland County Coroner's Office was dispatched to the airport around 3 p.m.

Deputy Coroner John Ackerman said he did not know if there was more than one fatality.

It was also not known what type of plane went down or how many people might have been aboard.

The FAA is en route to the crash site.

Story and video:

ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. - One person was killed in a small-plane crash near Rostraver Airport in Westmoreland County.

The pilot was practicing a maneuver called touch-and-goes around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday when he veered to the left and crashed down an embankment. The plane burst into flames.

It came to rest nearly 250 feet into the woods.

"Just heard a big boom and heard a whole bunch of sirens,” said Peter Johnson. “Then me and my dad came up. I was on the runway; you couldn't see anything. All you could see was the smoke." 

The name of the pilot has not been released; however, Channel 11 spoke to other pilots who said they knew the man. It was an emotional day at the airport.

“It’s always tough,” said Gabe Monzo, Rostraver Airport director. “We have been involved with a lot of these through the years. Tough on everybody on the aviation community.”

Investigators believe the pilot was flying solo, but the wreckage is being searched to ensure there wasn’t a passenger.

Agents with the Federal Aviation Administration spent several hours at the crash site Wednesday and will return Thursday to resume their investigation.

Story and video:


Daytona Shelby said...

The pilot has been identified as John Graham III, president & CEO of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. Sources said that a gust of wind pushed him off runway centerline while landing on runway 26 but that will have to come out in the investigation. I'm wondering if it wasn't a classic stall/spin scenario. RIP fellow aviator.

Anonymous said...


Tom said...

The Howard crashed near the midpoint of the E-W ronway (not off the end). It apparently bounced and flew South over the parallel taxiway, then ended in a ravine on the South side.