Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Fire / Smoke (Non-Impact): Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six, N4153R, fatal accident occurred May 02, 2018 near Greenwood Lake Airport (4N1), West Milford, Passaic County, New Jersey

Reverend Andrew John Topp, a selfless humanitarian and avid pilot, went home to the Lord doing what he loved most, flying, on May 2nd, 2018.

The Rev. Andrew Topp is seen with his Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six.

Home for Good Dog Rescue co-founder Richard Errico with the Rev. Andrew Topp.

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Teterboro, New Jersey
Lycoming; Dallas, Texas
Piper; Wichita, Kansas

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: West Milford, NJ
Accident Number: ERA18FA138
Date & Time: 05/02/2018, 1410 EDT
Registration: N4153R
Aircraft: PIPER PA32
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Fire/smoke (non-impact)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The private pilot told a friend that he was having problems with his airplane's engine and stated that he was going to taxi to the end of the runway and perform an engine run-up. If the engine run-up was successful, the pilot was going to conduct a short cross-country flight and return. During takeoff, the engine experienced a total loss of power; the airplane subsequently impacted a wooded area about 1,100 ft south of the departure runway.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane experienced an in-flight fire, with the heaviest concentration of thermal damage on the aft right side of the engine compartment. The fuel inlet line from the fuel pump to the fuel servo was loose. According to the manufacturer, the part number of the inlet line installed on the accident airplane was not approved for aircraft use; however, aside from the part number, the approved hose looked identical to the unapproved hose, and the error likely could not be detected during an annual inspection. The airplane's maintenance logbooks were destroyed during the accident and the pilot performed some of the maintenance of the airplane himself; therefore, when and by whom the unapproved hose was installed could not be determined. It is likely that the loose fuel line allowed fuel to spray onto the exhaust system, which resulted in the in-flight fire and the total loss of engine power.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An in-flight fire and total loss of engine power after takeoff due to a loose fuel line. Contributing to the accident was the installation of an unapproved fuel line by unknown personnel.


Aircraft Hoses and tubes - Incorrect use/operation
Personnel issues Unauthorized maint/repair - Not specified

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight Aircraft maintenance event
Takeoff Fire/smoke (non-impact) (Defining event)
Takeoff Loss of engine power (total)
Emergency descent Off-field or emergency landing
Emergency descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

On May 2, 2018, about 1410 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N4153R, was destroyed when it impacted terrain after takeoff from Greenwood Lake Airport (4N1), West Milford, New Jersey. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to IHAF Flying Mission LLC and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which was destined for Orange County Airport (MGJ), Montgomery, New York.

A flight instructor at 4N1, who was also a friend of the pilot, stated that he talked with the pilot just before the accident. The pilot told him that he was having problems with the airplane's engine and thought the problem was either the magnetos or the spark plugs. The pilot stated that he was going to taxi to the end of the runway and perform an engine run-up. If the engine run-up was successful, he was going to take a short flight to MGJ and return.

A witness located 1 mile north of the airport heard the airplane take off, heard the airplane's engine sputter, then heard a loss of power. He then heard the sound of a crash and called 911.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 58, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/27/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 625 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate, issued April 27, 2016. At the time of the medical examination, the pilot reported 625 total hours of flight experience. The pilot's logbook was onboard the airplane and was consumed by fire. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N4153R
Model/Series: PA32 300
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1968
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 32-40468
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 06/30/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: TI0-540-K1A5
Rated Power: 310 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The six-seat, low-wing, tricycle-gear-airplane was manufactured in 1968. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, 300-horsepower engine equipped with a two-bladed Hartzell propeller. Family members stated that the maintenance logbooks were carried on the airplane in the luggage compartment. The luggage compartment was consumed by fire and all documents were destroyed. A local mechanic stated that he performed the most recent annual inspection on the airplane in late June 2017. He also stated that the pilot often performed maintenance on his own airplane.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFWN, 421 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 13 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1753 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 291°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 10 knots / 21 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 220°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.02 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 6°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: West Milford, NJ (4N1)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: MONTGOMERY, NY (MGJ)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1410 EDT
Type of Airspace: 

The 1353 recorded weather at Sussex Airport (FWN), Sussex, New Jersey, located 13 miles northwest of the accident site, included wind from 220° at 10 knots gusting to 21 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 30°C, dew point 6°C, and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches of mercury. 

Airport Information

Airport: Greenwood Lake (4N1)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 789 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 24
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3471 ft / 60 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: In-Flight
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 41.121389, -74.350833 (est) 

The wreckage was located in a wooded area about 1,100 ft south of the departure end of runway 24 and was consumed by a fire. Tree branches were observed broken descending about a 12° angle and extending about 50 ft on a magnetic heading of 110° to the main wreckage. The main wreckage came to rest upright. The instrument panel was consumed by fire. Both wings separated from the fuselage and were located about 30 ft behind the fuselage. The wings exhibited minor fire damage. Fuel was found in both wing tanks and was consistent in color and odor with 100LL aviation fuel. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the flight controls through breaks consistent with overload separations.

The engine remained attached to the airframe. The accessories on the right rear of the engine were consumed by fire. The upper right corner of the firewall exhibited a burn area free of soot. The fire sleeving of the oil lines, engine baffling, and oil cooler all exhibited thermal damage. The upper engine cowling was intact but exhibited heavy thermal damage on the aft right side. The lower cowl was heavily sooted and the fiberglass resin was charred and missing in areas. The thermal damage was consistent with an in-flight fire. (For further information, see the Materials Laboratory Fire Factual Report in the NTSB public docket for this accident.)

The propeller blades were both bent aft at mid-blade. Thumb compression was established on all cylinders and a lighted boroscope was used to examine all pistons and valves with no anomalies noted.

During the engine examination, the inlet fuel line from the fuel pump to the fuel servo was found loose. The line could be moved over 1/8 inch inside the B-nut. Parker Aerospace, the manufacturer of the hose, stated that, based on the hose's part number, it was not approved for airplane use and was intended for industrial use only. The hose looked identical to an approved one, but with a different part number.

The fuel servo and the hose that was installed on the airplane were sent to Avstar Fuel Systems, Inc., for operational testing and examination. The test revealed that the servo met all the requirements for flow. The B-nut was loosened during the flow test to simulate the loose line and fuel sprayed from the B-nut immediately after loosening the nut. The B-nut was not loosened to the same amount found during the postaccident examination since fuel was spraying immediately after torque was removed.

The fuel pump was sent to CJ Aviation for operational testing and examination. The fuel pump was installed on a test bench and flow tested. The test did not reveal any anomalies.

Medical And Pathological Information

The Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner, Newark, New Jersey, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The report listed the cause of death as blunt trauma.

Toxicology testing was performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory on specimens from the pilot. Acetaminophen, pseudoephedrine, and naproxen were detected in urine; pseudoephedrine was also detected in blood.

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant commonly marketed with the name Sudafed. Products containing this drug are only available "behind the counter" but do not require a prescription. Acetaminophen is an analgesic and fever reducer available over-the-counter and commonly marketed with the name Tylenol. Naproxen is an anti-inflammatory drug available over the counter and commonly marketed with the names Naprosyn and Aleve. These drugs are not considered impairing in usual doses.

The Rev. Andrew Topp is seen with his Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six. He was killed when the plane crashed  May 2, 2018 in West Milford. 

A pilot killed when his plane went down in West Milford was remembered Thursday as a minister, husband, father of six and humanitarian.

The Rev. Andrew Topp, 59, who was a pastor for more than 20 years at the First Reformed Church of Boonton, had hopped into his single-engine Piper PA-32 to take it for a test run to the Oranges in preparation for a May 13 trip to Haiti to do missionary work, according to Topp's daughter, Erica Fischer-Kaslander, who lives in Haledon.

Topp, who always had a passion for flying and had spoken about it since his father was in the Air Force, obtained his pilot's license about 15 to 18 years ago, Fischer-Kaslander said. His desire to get the license was motivated by the humanitarian work he did with his non-profit, International Humanitarian Aid Foundation Inc., which he founded in 2007.

His missionary work brought him to almost every country in the world, his daughter said, and he found that having a small plane to deliver supplies quicker was a benefit.

"He was able to reach these remote areas with his plane that larger non-profits couldn't," she said.

Although he had owned different planes over the years, the plane he was flying was the only one he owned currently. On the National Transportation Safety Board aircraft identification system, the tail number on Topp's plane, which is shown in a photo his daughter shared with the New Jersey Herald, was registered to his non-profit.

Fischer-Kaslander said her father had replaced the engine on his plane about three months ago.

Nick Stefano, of Wantage, was friends with Topp when the two were teenagers living across the street from one another in North Haledon.

"He was part of my childhood. It's so hard to think he's not there anymore that I can't talk to him," Stefano said.

The two eventually graduated from high school and went their separate ways, but they always stayed in touch.

"We were talking just a couple weeks ago, and he told me to stop by his church (in Boonton)," Stefano said, adding that Topp shoveled Stefano's mother's driveway in North Haledon a little while back.

Stefano was planning on taking Topp up on his offer and wanted to get into missionary work and animal rescue with him.

Topp was a self-proclaimed animal lover, according to Stefano, and often worked to help rescue animals from high-kill shelters and from natural disasters.

Topp worked closely with Home for Good Dog Rescue, a non-profit in Berkeley Heights, and helped fly supplies to Texas and returned with dozens of dogs after the state was slammed by Hurricane Harvey.

"If your dog arrived in New Jersey by rescue flight, chances are he or she was flown by Andy, as he had spent two years flying more than 300 Home for Good dogs safely home," the group said in a Facebook post Thursday.

Upset that he wasn't able to see his friend one last time, Stefano only had positive memories to share of his childhood friend.

"He was a great man. It's devastating," Stefano said, adding that the world has "certainly lost a great person."

Officials said that Topp's plane went down around 2:38 p.m. Wednesday in a wooded area near the former Jungle Habitat property, which is administered by Ringwood State Park.

The Federal Aviation Administration indicated the airplane crashed shortly after takeoff from runway 24 at the Greenwood Lake Airport.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Just a few years ago, tragedy struck the Topp family when Topp's brother, Bob, died in a motorcycle accident in Kentucky at the age of 60.

Topp, who stored his plane at Greenwood Lake Airport, also organized trips to help aid victims of natural disasters, built orphanages, was a member of Gift of Life and Rotary International District 7490.

"We organized a trip for him to fly to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help assist during Hurricane Maria (in 2017)," Fischer-Kaslander said, adding that she recalls he had to wait out the storm in Florida and ended up flying around the hurricane to reach his destination.

She never flew with him, but would often help him on the ground with organizing supplies.

"We were a great team. I served as his right hand, and my experience working with him actually led me into a career in social work," Fischer-Kaslander admitted.

"My passion, I owe it all to my father," she said. "He was an inspiration."

Although the reality of the crash and the loss of her father was still very raw on Thursday, Fischer-Kaslander said that she intends to carry on her father's legacy and continue with his work.

For more details on Topp's International Humanitarian Aid Foundation, visit

Home for Good Dog Rescue co-founder Richard Errico with the Rev. Andrew Topp.

WEST MILFORD — A plane crash near Greenwood Lake Airport on Wednesday afternoon killed the pilot and set a portion of state parkland at the former Jungle Habitat theme park ablaze, police said.

The plane, a single-engine Piper PA-32, crashed in the nearby woods at about 2:30 p.m. after taking off from Greenwood Lake Airport, said a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration. A statement from the state Department of Environmental Protection said the pilot, the lone occupant, died during the crash. His name was not released.

The entrance to the thickly forested former safari theme park was blocked off by local authorities at about 3 p.m. A helicopter was also seen in the area dropping water in an attempt to douse the spreading fire.

Eyewitness reports of smoke to the east of Morsetown Road dovetail with reports from the FAA that the pilot took off in a southwesterly direction before crashing in the state parkland adjacent to the airport.

Steve Woodward, a local flight instructor, said he has been flying out of the airport for five years. At 3,471 feet, the runway would probably seem small to someone who has flown only out of Morristown Airport. However, compared with many local airports, such as Lincoln Park and Andover, it is relatively roomy, he said.

“It’s high in elevation and it’s a little windy, but I’ve been flying for close to 35 years and I’ve been into much trickier airports than Greenwood Lake,” Woodward said. “When it’s windy it can be a little tricky, but I would never call it dangerous.”

Tim Wagner, the manager of Greenwood Lake Airport and a township councilman, had no comment. The airport was closed Wednesday afternoon. Strong wind gusts were reported.

Michael Donovan, a spokesman for Orange and Rockland Utilities, said that when the plane came down it apparently took some power lines along with it. The company subsequently cut power to the circuit, putting roughly 950 customers out of power, the company's outage map showed.

Power was restored by 5 p.m. except for the lights at a nearby ballfield, Donovan said. At that time the FAA closed off the area to the utility employees, so they will return Thursday to finish repairs, Donovan said. 

Mike Venezia, a 30-year resident, said he knew something was wrong when the power went off.

“The power went down and I knew something was going down. It’s really sad. It really is,” he said of the fatal crash.

West Milford police Lt. James DeVore said local officers responded to the crash but turned over the investigation to the State Park Police.

State DEP officials said the New Jersey State Park Police, Bureau of Emergency Response and New Jersey Forest Fire Service responded and remained on the scene, assisted by local police and fire personnel. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will be leading the investigation into the crash, officials said.

Original article can be found here ➤

WEST MILFORD, New Jersey (WABC) --  Authorities say one person was killed in a small plane crash in Passaic County on Wednesday afternoon.

The single-engine private plane took off from Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford before it went down in a wooded area around 3 p.m.

The victim has not yet been identified.

The crash caused a small brush fire that the Forest Fire Service was working to get under control.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

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