Friday, March 23, 2018

Robert R. Gray Jr: One-legged unlicensed pilot, who blamed plane crash on prosthetic limb, sent to jail

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

Robert R. Gray Jr.


A one-legged airplane enthusiast from Suffolk who crashed a plane after authorities had repeatedly warned him not to fly was sentenced Friday to two weeks in jail.

Robert R. Gray Jr., 55, pleaded guilty in December to flying without a license.

According to court documents, Gray, who uses a scooter, has spent about 40 years around airplanes but has never secured an airman’s license. That is in part because his prosthetic leg and other medical problems disqualify him from holding one.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched an investigation of Gray in October 2016, after receiving a tip he was flying without a license, the documents said. Gray denied the allegations.

Federal investigators spoke with him again in June to inquire about another incident. Gray acknowledged flying without a license that time, but claimed he was with a licensed instructor, documents said. The Federal Aviation Administration let him off with a warning.

The next month, the crash happened. According to the documents, Gray was trying to land a 1972 Piper aircraft at Umphlett Airstrip in Suffolk when it pulled to the right, hit a bump, did a 180-degree turn and struck several small trees. The plane, which Gray had recently sold, was left his a damaged right wing, landing gear and nose cone.

Gray – who was uninjured – initially told police he had not been flying the aircraft and that the real pilot was missing, according to court documents.

Police started searching for the missing pilot when Gray confessed he was lying.

A few days later, Gray told an FAA safety inspector 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.

Prosecutors asked Friday for Gray to be sentenced to 1½ years in prison, in part because he was warned not to fly.

"By making this choice with his these physical limitations, the defendant endangered everyone around him in the air and on the ground," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky said in court documents. "He could have easily killed himself or a number of other people by making this reckless choice."

Defense attorney Robert Rigney countered that house arrest was more appropriate given his client's various medical problems, which include diabetes, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He said Gray will "inevitably" have to have his left leg amputated at some point.

U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis said he would have given Gray probation if this had been an isolated incident.

But it wasn't. The judge said he was concerned Gray would again crawl into a plane and try to fly, despite his "significant medical issues."

"Once you are up in that airplane, you are a very significant risk," Davis said. "The need to incarcerate ... outweighs the cost to the public."

Original article can be found here ➤  https://pilotonline.com

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

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


Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


http://registry.faa.gov/N2814T


Analysis

According to the pilot, the airplane 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 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.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's inadvertent brake application during the landing roll, which resulted in a loss of directional control.

Findings

Aircraft
Brake - Unintentional use/operation (Cause)
Directional control - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Qualification/certification - Pilot

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing-landing roll
Loss of control on ground (Defining event)
Runway excursion
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)



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

Airport: UMPHLETT AIRSTRIP (VG37)
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)

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