Saturday, February 10, 2018

Piper PA-28-180, N2814T: Accident occurred July 22, 2017 at Umphlett Airstrip (VG37), Whaleyville, Suffolk, Virginia

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Whaleyville, VA
Accident Number: GAA17CA430
Date & Time: 07/22/2017, 2036 EDT
Registration: N2814T
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-180
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

According to the pilot, he touched down on the approach end of the grass airstrip.

During the landing roll, he did not realize that, his "right foot was resting against the right toe brake." The airplane exited the right side of the airstrip and struck trees.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right-wing spar and the horizontal stabilizer.

The pilot did not possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot certificate.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Robert R. Gray Jr.

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None 
Last FAA Medical Exam: None
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: None
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 225 hours (Total, all aircraft), 150 hours (Total, this make and model), 50 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N2814T
Model/Series: PA 28-180 180
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1972
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-7205226
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 06/09/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2150 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4716 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O&VO-360 SER
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSFQ, 72 ft msl
Observation Time: 1215 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 17°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 24°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots, 240°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Suffolk, VA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Suffolk, VA (SAME)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 2036
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 75 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Soft; Wet
Runway Used: 19
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2550 ft / 60 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 36.589444, -76.638056 (est)

Robert R. Gray Jr.

NORFOLK --  The first time federal investigators questioned the Suffolk airplane enthusiast about flying without a license, he claimed he’d done nothing wrong.

The second time, Robert R. Gray Jr. confessed to flying a plane but said he thought it was allowed because he was with a licensed instructor. He promised not to do it again.

Gray’s third time didn’t end well. The man with one leg crashed a single-engine plane. He blamed it on his prosthetic.

Gray, 55, pleaded guilty Tuesday to flying without a license. He is set to be sentenced March 23 in U.S. District Court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky and defense attorney Robert Rigney declined to comment on the case.

Gray, who uses a walker and scooter, has spent about 40 years around airplanes, sometimes buying and selling used aircraft, according to court documents. In all that time, however, he has never secured an airman’s license.

At one time, he held a student pilot certificate, but that license expired, the documents said. Gray’s prosthetic leg and other unspecified medical conditions disqualify him from ever holding an airman’s certificate.

Rumors started circulating in October 2016 that Gray was flying without a license, the documents said. Following up on a tip, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched an investigation. Gray denied the allegations, claiming the people spreading the rumors were simply jealous.

Federal investigators came knocking again in June to inquire about another incident. That time, Gray acknowledged flying without a license, but claimed he was with a licensed instructor, documents said. He said he thought it was legal, and the Federal Aviation Administration let him off with a warning.

A month later, Gray was involved in a crash at Umphlett Airstrip in Suffolk that left his 1972 Piper aircraft with a damaged right wing, landing gear and nose cone. As the plane came in for a landing July 22, it pulled to the right, hit a bump, did a 180-degree turn and struck several small trees.

When police arrived at the crash scene, Gray – who was uninjured – initially denied flying the aircraft, documents said. He claimed the real pilot was missing.

Police started searching for the missing pilot before Gray confessed he was lying, documents said. He claimed he had recently sold the aircraft and decided to fly it one more time before turning it over to the buyer.

A few days after the crash, Gray spoke with an FAA safety inspector about the crash. He took responsibility for it, explaining he had no feeling on his right side, documents said.

He suggested his prosthetic leg became stuck on the brake, causing it to spin out, documents said.

And according to the government’s statement of facts: “Gray further stated that he had no business flying the plane that day as he can barely drive a car.”

Story and photos ➤

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