Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Cessna 172N Skyhawk, operated by PsyFliers Club Inc under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight, N733KZ: Fatal accident occurred May 01, 2019 in Tyrone, Blair County, Pennsylvania

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

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Tyrone, PA
Accident Number: ERA19FA161
Date & Time: 05/01/2019, 1251 EDT
Registration: N733KZ
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 1, 2019, about 1251 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N733KZ, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain while maneuvering near Tyrone, Pennsylvania. The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was being operated by PsyFliers Club, Inc. under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time for the visual flight rules (VFR) flight that originated from University Park Airport (UNV), State College, Pennsylvania about 1240, destined for the Pittsburgh/Butler Regional Airport (BTP), Butler, Pennsylvania.

According to preliminary air traffic control information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot filed an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan; however, he elected depart VFR and asked the UNV air traffic controller to cancel the IFR flight plan. The pilot was cleared for takeoff from runway 24, was provided the updated altimeter setting and told to advise when leaving the class D airspace; however, there were no subsequent communications from the pilot.

According to preliminary ADS-B radar track data of transponder 1200 codes, the airplane departed and remained on runway heading for about 4.5 nautical miles (nm) while climbing to 2,500 ft mean sea level (msl). The flight track turned slightly right to a west-southwest heading, descended to about 2,000 ft msl, and remained on that heading and altitude for about 10 nm. The flight then turned to the same heading initially flown after takeoff, descended slightly then climbed to about 2,000 ft msl over about 3 nm. The radar data indicated that the airplane began a right turn before radar track data was lost. The last radar target at 1251:02, indicated the airplane was at about 2,050 feet msl, about 0.11 mile southeast of the accident site.

A witness who was outside about 1/2 mile east-southeast from the accident site reported it was very foggy but not raining. She heard a loud sounding airplane which got her attention. She then observed the airplane west of her position flying low and "straight" below the fog in a westerly direction "way above a nearby 45 ft tall tree." The airplane banked to the right ("not too steep"), then she lost sight of the airplane when it went behind trees. She then heard the sound of an explosion and called 911 to report the accident.

The airplane impacted heavily wooded terrain near the top of a ridgeline that was at elevation about 2,275 ft msl about 17 miles west-southwest of UNV. The wreckage was highly fragmented and partially consumed by a postcrash fire.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N733KZ
Model/Series: 172 N
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: UNV, 1231 ft msl
Observation Time: 1253 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C / 11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 190°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1200 ft agl
Visibility:  7 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: State College, PA (UNV)
Destination: Butler, PA (BTP)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.764444, -78.211111

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

Dr. Joseph T. and Valerie Diane Bernardo

Dr. Joseph T. Bernardo, often called “J.” by many of his colleagues, and his wife Valerie Diane Bernardo perished in an airplane accident on May 1st, 2019.

Joe was born on March 5, 1964, in Lodi, New Jersey, the son of Joseph and Ruth (Niosi) Bernardo, who are both surviving at their home in Andover, New Jersey. Joe earned his Ph.D. from Penn State in IST. He was employed at Penn State for 9 years, where he was a Senior Research Engineer at the Applied Research Lab. Joe loved flying and was a member of the Psyfliers Club.

Valerie was born on January 7, 1965, in Butler, Pennsylvania, the daughter of the late John King and Peggy (Yori) King, who survives at her home in Chicora. Valerie also attended Penn State, where she earned her Master’s degree in nutrition and was a Registered Dietitian for 28 years. She loved to spend time outdoors, gardening. Above all, Valerie proudly devoted her life to taking care of her family and home.

On May 18, 1986, in Rimersburg, Joe and Valerie were united in marriage. The two shared 32 blissful years of marriage together, while lovingly raising their two children.

In addition to Joe’s parents and Valerie’s mother, the couple is survived by their two children, Bethany and Justin Bernardo, both of State College. Also surviving are Joe’s sister Karen Bernardo of New Jersey, Valerie’s sister Sheryl Schmader, niece Madison, nephew Nicholas, all of California, and brother Alan King and spouse Mathew Alexander of New Mexico.

Joe and Valerie were devoted members of Park Forest Baptist Church in State College.

Friends will be received on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, from 5-8 pm at Park Forest Baptist Church at 3030 Carnegie Drive, State College. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at 10 am at the church, with Rev. Jeremy Field officiating. Burial will immediately follow at Boalsburg Cemetery, where Joe and Valerie will be laid to rest, side by side, just as they lived.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Joe and Valerie’s memory to The Door Student Services, Pioneers Japan: Hiroshima Team, or Pregnancy Resource Clinic.

Taylor Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania - WTAJ has gathered new details related to a plane that crashed Wednesday afternoon in the mountains of Taylor Township, Centre County.

The crash killed both the plane's pilot and passenger... who were identified Thursday evening by the Centre County Coroner's office.

The pilot: 55-year-old Joseph T. Bernardo of State College.

The passenger: 54-year-old Valerie Bernardo of State College.

The two were husband and wife.

It's now known that Bernardo took off from the University Park Airport in State College.

However, different sources conflict in stating where the plane was headed. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the plane was headed for Burlington, Vermont. But, reports that the plane was headed to the Butler County Airport. According to a flight path provided by, the plane appeared to be headed south and west toward the Butler County Airport.

WTAJ gathered audio recordings of air traffic control's contact with the plane before it took off.

Note: At this time, it's unknown who is speaking during each radio transmission (it could be the pilot or air traffic control). Also, IFR (referenced below) stands for instrument flight rules... this is different than VFR- visual flight rules.

A transcription of the radio transmissions is below.

"733 University you want your IFR... "

"Do you want me to remove that strip or leave it open?"

"Your IFR flight plan is good."

"733 Kilo 0 University Tower runway... good for takeoff"

Then about 11 seconds later... this is heard

"Quiet out there"

"Pilots do get nervous"

At the moment, WTAJ is not certain of the context of "Pilots do get nervous".

Was this just a side comment by air traffic control, perhaps referencing the notion that the pilot didn't respond to being cleared for takeoff?

Or did the pilot say this indicating he was actually nervous?

Why was this stated in a radio trasmission?

University Park Airport has not commented on questions related to the trasmissions as the plane crash is still under investigation.

It is known that the plane was owned by a State College flying club called: Pysfliers.

According to, the plane was taken out on at least 5 flights last month... including one flight that lasted just under an hour, on the day before the crash.

All flights listed for the plane before the crash took-off and landed at the University Park Airport.

Story and video ➤

Yesterday at 1300 hours the Columbia Fire Company was alerted to assist the Mountain Top Fire Company with a Level 1 Aircraft Crash near the 4200 block of Tyrone Pike, Rush Township Centre County. 

Engine 22-2, Tanker 22 and Brush Tanker 22 all responded on the alarm. 

The original staging area was at the truck pull off at the top of the Sandy Ridge Mountain. 

Centre County Dispatch Advised the original caller resided on the 3500 block of S Mountain Rd in Taylor Township.

Command had Engine 22-2 go to their address and speak with them to obtain further information. 

Prior to arriving there the engine crew could see a wing from the aircraft in the tree tops on the mountain top. 

Lieutenant 22 gave coordinates of the predicted crash site area and all units redirected to that location.

Lieutenant 22, Chief 13-4, Captain 12-1 and EMS started the hike up the hillside. 

After almost an hour of climbing the crew arrived at the crash site. 

The plane was extinguished with water cans from Engine 22-2. 

Sadly, there were no survivors from the crash. 

After several hours, all units cleared the scene and the call was turned over to the FAA and NTSB. 

The aircraft was a Cessna 172N Skyhawk from the State College area. 

We send our condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. Any further questions can be directed to those two agencies.
Columbia Fire Company

The two people killed in Wednesday's plane crash in Rush Township were a married State College couple, Centre County Chief Deputy Coroner Judith Pleskonko said in a news release on Thursday night.

Joseph T. Bernardo, 55, was the pilot of the single-engine plane and his wife, 54-year-old Valerie D. Bernardo, was the passenger. Both were pronounced dead at the scene after the Cessna 172 crashed into the Sandy Ridge Mountain summit just before 1 p.m.

Autopsies were performed on Thursday but results are pending.

Joseph Bernardo was an employee in Penn State's Applied Research Lab.

"On behalf of Penn State, we extend our heartfelt condolences to friends and family of Joseph Bernardo during this time of tremendous sorrow," Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane departed from University Park Airport. A C172 that departed at 12:41 p.m. was listed as being registered to State College-based flying club Psyfliers.

Emergency responders were dispatched when a caller reported seeing a low-flying plane crash near the top of Sandy Ridge Mountain, as well as hearing an explosion.

Mountain Top Fire Company was first on the scene and commanded the response, joined by multiple fire and EMS companies from Centre, Clearfield and Blair counties, as well as state police. Crews worked in the heavily wooded area throughout the afternoon and into Wednesday night.

The FAA is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine a probable cause of the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

A Cessna C172 aircraft crashed into the side of Sandy Ridge Mountain in Taylor Township around 1 p.m. Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane took off from University Park Airport.

Daniel Christine Jr. said his parents, Kay and Daniel Christine Sr., were the ones who heard the plane crash from their home on Mountain Road and called 911. 

“My parents heard a plane that sounded like it was having issues, then heard it crash into the mountain with a loud bang,” he said.

Because of the heavy fog that afternoon, Christine Jr. said his parents mostly heard, rather than saw the crash.

Christine Jr. and his father then helped lead state troopers up the dirt road to get to the crash site, where he said they could see flames and debris.

The Centre County deputy coroner was called to the scene, but the number of fatalities has not yet been confirmed.

The area in which the plane crashed was heavily wooded, and rescue crews needed to use all-terrain vehicles to reach the site, firefighters on the scene confirmed. They also used a drone to help pinpoint the location.

Mountain Top Fire Company assumed command, while Columbia, Bald Eagle, Neptune, Philipsburg and Port Matilda also responded, along with state police and EMS.

State police said the investigation has been handed over to the FAA, which will determine the cause of the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

PsyFliers —
July 30, 2018 

We're currently 11 members sharing use of a 1977 Cessna 172N. The aircraft is meticulously maintained by Gullwing Aviation at Mifflin Airport. It has recent avionics - including an IFR-certified, WAAS (precisie) GPS with moving map, an ADS-B out transponder that provides in-flight weather and traffic information and connects to pilot's electric flight bag devices (e.g., iPads). As of summer 2018, we are equipped with a new Garmin autopilot and Garmin glass-panel instruments. The aircraft itself has an upgraded engine from the stock C172N, increasing useful capacity by 100lbs. The engine is very regularly monitored via oil and oil filter analyses, compression checks, and annual inspections.  Scheduling works via a website and is quite flexible. We are financially responsible and careful, we have savings to account for future maintenance, and members are insured to fly.  Most importantly, we're fun and friendly!

SANDY RIDGE, Pennsylvania — 

UPDATE 3: The Federal Aviation Administration has released the following statement:

A Cessna C172 aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Sandy Ridge Mountain in Rush Township, Pennsylvania,  about 1 p.m. today. The aircraft took off from University Park Airport in State College, Pennsylvania.  Check with local authorities for information about the condition of the two people on board. The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.

UPDATE 2: Officials say a resident witnessed a low flying plane descending over an area made up of mostly state game land.

The Mountaintop Fire Chief Timothy Sharpless says the resident thought they heard an explosion moments after seeing the plane.

Numerous fire and rescue crews throughout the area responded to the scene.

The Centre County coroner arrived after crews located the plane and was taken to the scene.

the mountaintop fire chief says getting to the scene was a struggle.

“A resident saw a low flying plane, heard what they thought to be an explosion,” Sharpless says. “We were hampered by heavy fog so we weren’t sure if what they were seeing was smoke or fog which hampered any real surveillance to try to locate.”

Sharpless says he suspects there were multiple fatalities.

The Centre County EMA says the investigation has been handed over to the FAA, they will investigate to determine the cause of the crash.

UPDATE 1: Fire officials say the plane has been found. A 6 News crew near the location says the Centre County coroner is on scene.

ORIGINAL STORY: Crews are searching for the scene of a possible single engine plane crash in Centre County, according to the Columbia Fire Company.

According to officials, the reported crash happened Wednesday afternoon in the area of Sandy Ridge.

Original article can be found here ➤

CENTRE COUNTY, Pennsylvania -- The Coroner has been called to the scene of a plane crash in Centre County.

Officials have confirmed that at least one person is dead near Taylor Township.

State Police in Rockview began searching for the small plane between Sandy Ridge and the Bald Eagle area around 1 p.m.

Story and video ➤


  1. According to Flightaware, this aircraft never got higher than 2,200' after takeoff and crashed in an area labeled 2,519' on a sectional chart. He appears to be on course for KBTP and doesn't seem to be flying erratic but just doesn't climb to clear terrain and just before tracking ends he starts descending. Engine problems come to mind. RIP

  2. Actually if this flight was following his IFR flight plan, he should have headed to Philipsburg VOR to join V58 @ 6,000' to EARED for the approach into KBTP. His flight track is taking him direct to KBTP.

  3. To clear up some of the misunderstanding here, based on the publicly available evidence. We owe factual discussion to the pilot, his family, his community.

    The flight departed VFR, even though an IFR plan was filed (the pilot declined to get the clearance). You can listen to the ATC recordings of the ground frequency at UNV.

    The weather at UNV was reported as 1200ft OVC, and there was dense fog on the ridges. The weather was good toward the intended destination of Butler, Pa in Pittsburgh (KBTP). That makes around 2400 MSL. Visibility was not great. You can look at historical METARs to get that information, and read the press reports regarding the fog.

    According to the eyewitnesses, the engine ran until impact (and there is more concrete evidence that the NTSB report will show, as one would look at how the prop is bent, see if the engine turns, and so on). Also note that there was no distress call, at least none recorded as per the LiveATC recordings. The investigation will also need to look at instrument currency of the pilot (who held an old IR and COM ticket, as you can see in the public FAA airmen database.)

    Finally, in response to the first anonymous commenter here, the track on FlightAware shows that he was climbing at the end (357ft/min) and the speed had slowed down a bit (95kts ground speed). Had he climbed at Vx or even just at Vy, he might have cleared the ridges in the fog - who knows. It will be interesting to see whether the altimeter setting was correct.

    In response to the second comment, the obstacle departure procedure at UNV is to climb runway heading to 2600 before turning on course, if I remember right, and that would have been the PSB VOR next according to the plan, or rather, whatever his clearance and assignment would have been in the end. The climb would have avoided the terrain with, IIRC, a 500ft margin.

    The aircraft was well-equipped (see the excerpt from the club website above) and could display a terrain map, although whether it was used we will never know.

  4. If the pilot had an older Instrument rating, I have to wonder if he misinterpreted the "glass" panel avionics if he was trained on "steam gauges". If the weather at KUNV was 1200' OVC, how did this pilot think he could scud run his way to better weather at KBTP? There's a lot of terrain between UNV & BTP and I wouldn't fly that route VFR unless I had a 5,000' ceiling. RIP to the pilot & his wife and my condolences to the family.

  5. Weird, right? Local pilot it seems. Suspect because the weather was better halfway to Pittsburgh. Maybe he thought he could just get out of there and climb then. Sad....

  6. I would agree with the above comment of possibly having the wrong altimeter setting IF he was flying an IFR flight plan. But to cancel an IFR clearance prior to departure when the ceiling at UNV was so low is a mystery. He clearly chose to make the trip VFR in those conditions and it cost him. If he HAD to be in Butler, why not just hop in the car and drive it (under 3 hrs). It seems the aircraft was more than capable to make the flight but the pilot has to be as well. SAD.

  7. Looks like another instance of VFR into IMC. Again. Very sad bc he killed someone besides himself.

    It’s beyond me, why a commercial pilot would cancel an IFR clearance on a 1200’ overcast ceiling. Unless the pilot had little recent experience/confidence in his IFR skills and thought he could scud run under it. (A bad idea in hilly PA). I’d be curious when he last had an IPC.

    I don’t think the altimeter setting has much bearing. The changing headings and altitudes indicate to me, spatial disorientation. And it’s a moot point what the altimeter setting is if you can’t keep the plane straight and level on a constant course.

    In my opinion (based on little information), I think It was poor decision making to depart vfr in those conditions. And THAT is the root cause. Not altimeter settings.

  8. Mark - I knew the pilot personally, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't instrument current. His commercial and IR were from before a flying hiatus (of several years) and I don't think (but I'm not 100%) he took any instrument training after. (He did go VFR flying with an instructor though not too long before the accident.) . The options were to illegally accept the clearance, scud-run for a few miles until in better weather, or cancel the flight.

  9. I chose option C: cancel the flight

  10. Option C...of course. But what if it looks clear at the end of the valley? Bright light seen in this direction on this unstable, murky day (which it was)? No fog reported? Good weather reported to the West (e.g. KIDI)?

    When I think about it this way, I realize that maybe I would have made the same mistake. At least it's not out of the question.

    (I recommend option D instead: legally accept the IFR clearance, because you've kept current, and climb through the layer following the ODP.)

  11. Sadly, a typical case of gottagetthereitis. No substitute for cooling your heels in those situations. You almost never get a second chance. MVFR = stay put. What ever you have in mind, it's just not that important. Clear that they died instantly upon impact. I hope they did not see it coming. RIP.

  12. i can tell you with confidence that it doesn't matter if you see it coming or not. as the survivor of a 60 mph collision with the side of a car while on my motorcyle and resultant sudden stop i had probably a 50/50 chance of still being here on this earth or not. i absolutely saw the collision coming but had no time to do anything but crash into the side of that car just behind the driver door. i have never to this day 10 years later have known how i ended up sitting upright against this side of that car right where the impact was, that is just where i came to and i don't even know how long i was out although it appears only a few minutes. i never felt my mangled arm which took the brunt of the impact and was basically smashed off above the left elbow for about 30 minutes. this was the time it took the ambulance to get there and load me up. as soon as the driver put it in gear is when i felt it and let out piercing scream and they stopped long enough to get me on the morphine. what i learned from this is the faster and harder you hit the easier it is. you are just here one minute and gone the next. i happened to wake up but if i hadn't i have always known that is how it would have been. i also know that in a traumatic accident it is very easy to go on to wherever you go from here probably easier than going in your sleep. it's just that simple, here one second gone the next. it was only hard for me because i survived and dealt with a year or two of recovery and getting my left arm to work again after a brilliant young surgeon took 8 hours to put it back together for me. it is quite useful today and bothers me very little amazingly enough. a broken left collar bone is the only other injury beside the arm and closed head trauma they called it. my wife claims occasionally that i never fully recovered from the head banging!