Saturday, May 26, 2018

Cessna 172R, N984RA, registered to Christiansen Aviation Inc and operated by Flight Academy of New Orleans, doing business as New Orleans Aerial Air Tours: Fatal accident occurred August 27, 2016 near Lakefront Airport (KNEW), New Orleans, Louisiana

Jim Biondo, 58

James "Jim" Anthony Biondo passed away on Saturday, August 27, 2016 doing what he loved flying an airplane. He was 58 years old and a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and a resident of Thibodaux, Louisiana. 

Jim was a kind, compassionate man, strong in his faith, always putting God first. He adored his family and had a passion for aviation and history. His love of aviation was enriched with a career spanning over 35 years of flying experience. Being an avid history buff and experienced pilot allowed him to share the unique history of New Orleans during his aerial tours. This chapter of his aviation career awarded him several 4 star reviews. Nothing brought Jim more joy than to spend time with his friends and family and to pilot a plane. 

Brianna Davis and Reginald Hillard Jr.

Brianna Davis bought her boyfriend Reginald Hillard Jr. a trip in a Cessna 172R for his birthday so could see what New Orleans looked like from the sky. Hillard was terrified of flying, but he didn’t want to pass up the experience and he was willing to take the challenge to make his girlfriend happy. While they were up in the air it started to rain. The plane impacted the water, Hillard pushed Davis out of the plane into Lake Pontchartrain. Davis was the only survivor, and a private yacht picked her up and took her to a hospital. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana 
Lycoming Aircraft Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: New Orleans, LA
Accident Number: CEN16LA338
Date & Time: 08/27/2016, 2015 CDT
Registration: N984RA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Business - Sightseeing 

On August 27, 2016, about 2015 central daylight time, a Cessna 172R airplane, N984RA, impacted the waters Lake Pontchartrain during a visual approach to the Lakefront Airport (NEW), New Orleans, Louisiana. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured; a second passenger received minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Christiansen Aviation, Inc., and operated by Flight Academy of New Orleans, doing business as New Orleans Aerial Air Tours, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local sightseeing tour flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the airplane was not on a flight plan, which departed NEW at 1930. 

According to the operator, one of the passengers purchased tickets for a 45-minute tour flight for two people, which was scheduled for a 1930 departure.

The surviving passenger reported that she and the other passenger were in the rear seats, with pilot in the left front seat, and that everything on the flight appeared normal. At the end of the flight as they neared the airport, it started to rain. She could not see much out of the windshield; however, the pilot pointed out four red lights ahead of the airplane and stated that that was the airport. She added that the pilot was "straining" to look above the dash and outside the windshield. Looking out the side window, she could see water below and stated that the airplane was "4 to 6 feet" above the water.

Shortly thereafter, the airplane impacted water about 1/2 mile from runway 09. The passenger stated in the post-crash interview, that it was still raining when she got to the water's surface. She added that the airplane's engine was running during the time leading up to the impact with water.

A review of radar data revealed the airplane's flight path above and around the city. A review of the airplane's radar track as it approached the airport, showed the airplane was at 900 ft above ground level (agl) about 3.6 miles from the runway. The airplane continued its descent as it approached the airport. The last radar return showed the airplane about 0.6 nautical mile from the airport at an altitude of 100 ft agl. An overlay of the airplane's radar track correlated with weather data revealed that the airplane entered an area of rain showers, as it approached the airport. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 58
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/11/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 9828 hours (Total, all aircraft), 9702 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land and instrument airplane.He also held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine sea.He held a first-class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate that was issued on May 11, 2016, with the limitation: must wear corrective lenses. At the time of the exam, the pilot reported 9,941 total flight hours with 170 hours in the previous six months.  


At 2000, the automated weather observation station (AWOS) located at NEW recorded wind from 120°at 5 knots, 5 miles visibility in light rain, scattered clouds at 2,200 ft, broken clouds at 3,800 ft, an overcast sky at 7,500 ft, temperature of 82°F, dew point 77°F, and an altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury.Distant lightning was noted to the west and northwest.

At 2023, the NEW AWOS recorded wind from 150° at 8 knots, 10 miles visibility, broken clouds at 2,200 ft, an overcast sky at 6,500 ft, temperature of 82°F, dew point 75°F, and an altimeter setting of 29.97 inches of mercury. Lightning was noted to the west and northwest.

New Orleans International Airport (MSY), located about 12 miles west of NEW, recorded the following weather conditions at 1953 CDT:wind calm, visibility 8 miles in thunderstorms and light rain, a few cumulonimbus clouds at 3,300 ft agl, scattered clouds at 7,500 ft, scattered clouds at 15,000 ft, ceiling broken at 25,000 ft, temperature 80°F, dew point 75°F, and an altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury.

Observation remarks included that rain ended at 1917 and began again at 1929; thunderstorm ended at 1921 and began again at 1941; frequent lightning in-cloud and cloud-to-cloud north; occasional lightning in-cloud and cloud-to-cloud distant west through northwest; thunderstorm north moving west; cumulonimbus cloud distant west through northwest.

Astronomical Conditions

According to information from the United States Naval Observatory, at the time of the accident, both the sun and the moon were more than 15° below the horizon.

Sunset occurred at 1928 and the end of civil twilight occurred at 1952. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N984RA
Model/Series: 172 R
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1997
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17280094
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/15/2016, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2299 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6153.5 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C91A installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-360
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: Flight Academy of New Orleans
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Does Business As: New Orleans Aerial Air Tours
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KNEW
Observation Time: 2023 CDT
Distance from Accident Site:
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Thin Broken / 3600 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 24°C
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3600 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots, 150°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: In the Vicinity - Thunderstorms - Rain
Departure Point: New Orleans, LA (KNEW)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: New Orleans, LA (KNEW)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time:  CDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Lakefront (KNEW)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 7 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Unknown
Runway Used: 09
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3114 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Straight-in 

The Lakefront Airport (NEW) is a publicly owned, towered airport, located 4 miles north of New Orleans, Louisiana. NEW has three asphalt runways: 18R/36L, 6,879 ft by 150 ft, and 18L/36R, 3,697 ft by 75 ft, and 9/27, 3,114 ft by 75 ft. The airport is at an elevation of 7.3 ft. mean sea level. 

A review of the FAA's Chart Supplement for NEW noted that runway 09 was equipped with a 4-light precision approach path indicator (PAPI) system, which provides visual glideslope guidance to the runway. Four white lights indicate an excessively high approach path, while four red lights indicate an excessively low approach path. Two white and two red lights indicate a normal approach path.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 30.061667, -90.027500 (est) 

The airplane impacted the waters of Lake Pontchartrain short of runway 09 at NEW. The airplane and occupants were recovered about 3 days later and transported to the shore by barge. The airplane recovery crew performed a flight control continuity check with no anomalies noted.The airplane was disassembled and transported to a secure facility for further examination. An examination was conducted on September 15, 2016, by the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, and technical representatives from the engine and airframe manufacturers.

The airplane's forward fuselage and left wing exhibited impact damage. The nose landing gear was pushed aft. Engine damage due to water submersion prevented functional testing of the engine and components; however, the examination did not reveal any abnormalities with the engine or airframe that would have precluded normal operation.

Medical And Pathological Information

The New Orleans Forensic Center, Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, New Orleans, Louisiana conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was determined to be, "asphyxia due to drowning."

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. The specimens were not tested for carbon monoxide and cyanide. The test detected ethanol at 0.103 mg/dL in liver and 0.087 mg/dL in muscle. N-propanol, a product of postmortem bacterial action, was also found in liver and muscle. In addition, clomipramine and its metabolite n-desmethylclomipramine were identified in liver and muscle.

Ethanol is the intoxicant commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. After ingestion, at low doses, it impairs judgment, psychomotor functioning, and vigilance; at higher doses, it can cause coma and death. Ethanol may also be produced in body tissues by microbial activity after death.

Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant used to treat symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It does not carry a warning about operating vehicle or machinery and is not considered directly impairing.

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA338
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 27, 2016 in New Orleans, LA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N984RA
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor.

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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 27, 2016, about 2015 central daylight time, a Cessna 172R, airplane, N984RA, impacted water, returning to the Lakefront Airport (KNEW), New Orleans, Louisiana. The commercial rated pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, a second passenger received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by Christiansen Aviation, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, under the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 136 as a local tour flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and the airplane was not on a flight plan. 

According to preliminary information gathered by investigators, the pilot and passengers were returning to the airport; the surviving passenger reported everything appeared normal, other than she thought they were low. The airplane then impacted water about a mile from runway 09. 

After recovery of the wreckage, the airplane's was recovered to a secure facility for further examination.

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