Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cessna 172G Skyhawk, N4676L, registered to Anne Kristine II Inc and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred November 22, 2017 in Pittsford, Rutland County, Vermont

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Portland, Maine
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Pittsford, VT
Accident Number: CEN18FA037
Date & Time: 11/22/2017, 1656 EST
Registration: N4676L
Aircraft: CESSNA 172G
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On November 22, 2017, at 1656 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172G, N4676L, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Pittsford, Vermont. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Anne Kristine II, Inc., and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Night instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) existed near the accident site and the flight was operated on a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan. The personal cross-country flight originated from Pittsfield Municipal Airport (PSF), Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 1555 with the intended destination of Middlebury State Airport (6B0), Middlebury, Vermont.

The pilot's son reported that the purpose of the flight was to visit relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday the next day.

A hand-held Garmin 396 GPS receiver was found within the wreckage. Although the unit was damaged, track data for the accident flight was downloaded from the unit and depicted the entire accident flight. The airplane departed PSF at 1555 and traveled in a northerly direction until reaching Hoosick Falls, New York, where the airplane began to track northeast. The airplane continued on the northeasterly track until reaching Arlington, Vermont. After reaching Arlington, the airplane appeared to follow US Highway 7 for about 50 miles. During the initial portion of the flight, the airplane's altitude was generally at or above a GPS altitude of 3,000 ft. About 35 miles before the end of the recorded data, the airplane's altitude began to decrease.

When the airplane was about 2 miles south of Pittsford, its altitude was about 1,500 ft agl. Before reaching the town of Pittsford, while still following Highway 7, the highway made a left turn toward the west through the town and around terrain, but the airplane continued its track toward the north. As the airplane continued north, with the highway to the west, it entered a valley between two ridges.

After entering the valley, the airplane made a turn to the east followed by a turn to the north. These turns were within the bounds of rising terrain and ridge lines were on either side of the flight track. The airplane continued to follow the valley between the ridges in the terrain before turning toward the west. The airplane crossed the western ridge, then began a descending right turn toward the north, where the track data ended. The last recorded GPS position, about 14 miles from 6B0, was at 1,152 ft msl and about 750 ft from the accident site; the ground elevation at that location was about 727 ft.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 89, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/14/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 

The 89-year old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on July 14, 2015, with a limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision; the medical certificate was not valid after July 31, 2017. At the time of the medical examination, the pilot reported 1,520 total hours of flight experience, and 55 hours in the 6 months preceding the examination. The pilot's flight logbook was not found in the wreckage and was not available for review during the investigation.

Based on the pilot's age, his medical certificate would have been valid through July 31, 2017. He had not completed the requirements listed in 14 CFR Part 68, entitled "Requirements for Operating Certain Small Aircraft Without a Medical Certificate", also known as BasicMed as described in FAA Advisory Circular AC 68-1A.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N4676L
Model/Series: 172G
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility
Serial Number: 17254671
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2299 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT:  C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-360-A4M
Registered Owner: ANNE KRISTINE II INC
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane, serial number 17254671, was manufactured in 1966 and was a single-engine monoplane with fixed tricycle landing gear and seating for four occupants including the flight crew. It was constructed primarily of metal and was powered by a Lycoming O-360-A4M, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, serial number L-36690-36A, rated to produce 180 horsepower.

The airplane maintenance records were not available for review. The airplane was originally equipped with a Continental O-300-D engine rated to produce 145 horsepower. The airplane's airworthiness file did not reflect the installation of the Lycoming engine.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:  Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: RUT, 787 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1656 EST
Direction from Accident Site: 165°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2000 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: Unknown / Unknown
Wind Direction: 310°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: Unknown / Unknown
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:  No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: PITTSFIELD, MA (PSF)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: MIDDLEBURY, VT (6B0)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1555 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G

The pilot received two weather briefings, one 2 days before the accident at 1814, and another the day before the accident at 1420. During the first briefing, the pilot was advised of a cold front moving through the area with scattered light precipitation, marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions at best, and AIRMET Sierra for mountain obscuration likely. During the second briefing, the pilot indicated that he would like to fly VFR because he didn't want to fly through clouds with potential icing issues. The briefer advised the pilot of widespread MVFR conditions, current METARs, Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs), AIRMETs, freezing levels, winds aloft, and that VFR flight was not recommended along the route of flight. The briefer also advised the pilot of mountain obscuration east and south of the intended destination, which would have included the accident site.

AIRMETs Sierra, Zulu, and Tango were valid for the accident site at the accident time. The AIRMETs warned of IMC due to precipitation and mist; mountain obscuration conditions due to clouds, precipitation, and mist; moderate icing conditions below 7,000 ft; and moderate turbulence below 14,000 ft.

At 1556, the recorded conditions at Southern Vermont Regional Airport (RUT), about 14 miles south-southeast of the accident site, included wind from 310° at 4 kts, 10 statute miles visibility, light rain, an overcast ceiling at 2,000 ft above ground level (agl), temperature 2°C, dew point 0°C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.

At 1656, the conditions at RUT included wind from 310° at 6 kts, 6 statute miles visibility, light snow and mist, broken ceiling at 2,000 ft agl, overcast ceiling at 2,600 ft agl, temperature 2°C, dew point 0° C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.

6B0, the next closest airport with official weather information, was 14 miles north-northwest of the accident site; at 1635, 6B0reported wind from 340° at 4 kts, 10 statute miles visibility, broken ceiling at 2,200 ft agl, overcast ceiling at 3,400 ft agl, temperature 2°C, dew point 0°C, and an altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury.

At 1655, the conditions at 6B0 included wind from 350° at 5 kts, 10 statute miles visibility, scattered clouds at 2,200 ft agl, overcast ceiling at 3,600 ft agl, temperature 2°C, dew point 0°C, and an altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury.

Astronomical data indicated that the end of civil twilight occurred at 1657.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 43.755556, -73.040000 

Examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal any preimpact anomalies. Details of the examination can be found in the docket material associated with the accident investigation.

Examination of the flight instruments recovered from the accident scene indicated that the airplane was equipped with both vacuum- and electrically powered gyroscopic flight instruments.

An electrically powered artificial horizon indicator was found, as well as the face and external case of another artificial horizon indicator. The internal components of the second artificial horizon indicator were not located. The first artificial horizon indicator was disassembled; one of the gyroscope housing bearing mounting areas was fractured. Examination of the rotating core of the gyroscope and its cage showed evidence of circumferential scoring on both components consistent with rotation during the impact sequence.

A vacuum-powered directional gyroscope was found and disassembled. The bearing mounts and the rotating core of the gyroscope were intact and did not show any evidence of the rotating gyroscope core having contacted the housing during the impact.

A gyroscopic turn-and-bank indicator was found and was partially disassembled. Upon removal of the outer case, it was evident that the rotating gyroscope was intact and still turned freely on its bearings. No further disassembly was performed.

The airplane's vacuum pump separated from the engine during the accident sequence. The vacuum pump was disassembled and internal examination revealed that the pump vanes were intact and no preimpact anomalies could be found. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Vermont State Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Burlington, Vermont, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was attributed to blunt impacts received in the accident.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on specimens of the pilot. Diphenhydramine was detected in urine and cavity blood and ibuprofen was detected in urine. Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms and as a sleep aid. It is available over the counter under the names Benadryl and Unisom. Diphenhydramine carries the FDA warning: "may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery)." According to the FAA toxicologist, the diphenhydramine level in the pilot's blood was well below therapeutic range and below the reporting curve. Ibuprofen is a non-sedating pain medication that is generally considered not to be impairing.

Additional Information

Spatial Disorientation

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute's publication, "Introduction to Aviation Physiology," defines spatial disorientation as a loss of proper bearings or a state of mental confusion as to position, location, or movement relative to the position of the earth. Factors contributing to spatial disorientation include changes in acceleration, flight in IMC, frequent transfer between VMC and IMC, and unperceived changes in aircraft attitude.

The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A) describes some hazards associated with flying when the ground or horizon are obscured. The handbook states, in part:

The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) in particular tends to confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, the sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in the attitude of the airplane, nor can they accurately sense attitude changes that occur at a uniform rate over a period of time. On the other hand, false sensations are often generated; leading the pilot to believe the attitude of the airplane has changed when in fact, it has not. These false sensations result in the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation.

The scene of the fatal plane crash in Pittsford two days after the incident took place on November 22, 2017.

Pittsford Police Lt. William Pratico shows a plaque awarded to the town Police Department by the Select Board at a ceremony thanking those who responded to a fatal plane crash last November. At right is Officer Antje Schermerhorn. 

Pittsford Police Lt. William Pratico, left, listens as Dan Baker, center, thanks local emergency personnel who responded to his father’s fatal plane crash in November. At right is Pittsford Police Chief Mike Warfle. A ceremony was held Wednesday night at the Pittsford town Offices where plaques were awarded to first responders by the Select Board. 

PITTSFORD — On the night last November that Norman Baker’s aircraft disappeared somewhere in the autumn fog over Pittsford, a police officer drove his son around as they tried to find clues about what happened to the missing pilot and his single-engine Cessna.

“It was Officer Antje. I drove around with her all night long and it was the night before Thanksgiving,” Dan Baker said Thursday, referring to Pittsford Police Officer Antje Schermerhorn, one of several police officers, firefighters and emergency responders who worked the night before Thanksgiving to find the senior Baker.

On Wednesday, the town of Pittsford honored the dozens of Pittsford emergency responders who worked to find Norman Baker, an 89-year-old pilot from Windsor, Massachusetts, who was flying to meet his children in Vermont for the holiday before his plane disappeared on its way to Middlebury State Airport.

The Select Board presented plaques to the Police Department, the Fire Department and Pittsford First Response, praising them for their work the night of Nov. 22, 2017.

Baker and his wrecked plane were found the next morning.

The elder Baker was an adventurer of some renown: The Boston Globe and The New York Times wrote profiles about the man who, among other adventures, was the celestial navigator for the famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who made trans-Atlantic crossings in boats made of papyrus reeds.

But nobody knew that on Nov. 22 except his family; the Pittsford first responders only knew someone’s father was missing.

“In recognition of excellent police officer performance, above and beyond the call of duty,” read the commendation, listing Lt. William Pratico, Officers Stephane Goulet and Schermerhorn, as well as Officer Jerry Tift and Officer Tim Cornell.

“Pittsford Assistant Fire Chief William Hemple led several of his colleagues in responding to news of a missing man and an overdue aircraft,” read the fire department’s commendation.

Robert Foley and colleagues of Pittsford First Response went “above and beyond the call of duty,” that night, “always remaining prepared to provide medical attention to anyone in need” and later helped with the removal of the pilot’s body, according to the commendation.

Town Manager John Haverstock said Wednesday’s event was “a very moving opportunity for the town to once again thank the police, fire and rescue people.”

He said Dan Baker attended the ceremony at the Pittsford town office.

Pratico said Pittsford emergency personnel went into action the night before Thanksgiving after a resident on Sugar Hollow Road reported seeing a plane flying very low, perhaps with engine trouble.

After contacting various airports and aviation authorities, none of which reported anyone missing, local police, firefighters, and Vermont State Police went out into the general area and looked and looked and looked.

“We exhausted all our means,” Pratico said, adding there was no doubt a plane was missing, as other residents reported hearing the low-flying aircraft.

The Civil Air Patrol did a flyover, but couldn’t pick up any signals, Pratico said. And police learned it wasn’t unusual for pilots to fly low “under the fog to see where they were going.”

He said no one heard a crash.

The next morning, one Pittsford resident who had heard the plane searches and read some of the notices, went out on his own property and quickly found Baker and the remains of the plane.

“I think he saw a piece of debris in a tree that drew his attention and he walked right over to it,” Pratico said.

Baker’s plane had crashed into a heavily wooded ridgeline and broke apart.

Pratico and Dan Baker said the National Transportation Safety Board still has not concluded its investigation into the fatal crash. The younger Baker said it likely will be several more months before the investigation was completed.

“We’ve been in touch with them and it’s still ongoing,” he said.

Dan Baker said he has his own theory on why his father, an experienced pilot who had flown to the Middlebury airport close to 20 times in recent years, crashed. In fact, his father had flown to the Middlebury airport just two weeks earlier to meet his newest twin granddaughters, said Baker, a Starksboro resident.

He doesn’t believe his father ran out of fuel. He said he believes his father had lost consciousness and in his last moments steered his plane away from Route 7 and homes “and made sure no one else was injured.”

His father had long planned for emergencies, he said, and would have put his plane down on Route 7, or one of the many open fields in the area.

Dan Baker, a professor of community development and applied economics at the University of Vermont, said his father was an extremely skilled pilot, once landing the two of them in his single-engine plane at Boston’s Logan Airport so his son could make a connection.

He praised the work of the Pittsford officers and volunteers who helped him and his family.

“When they found my dad, they allowed me to be a witness for my family,” he said.

“I couldn’t have been more impressed and grateful for their dedication and their skill,” he said. “They were pretty wonderful folks.”

Original article can be found here ➤

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