Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Visual Flight Rules encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions: Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N733KZ; fatal accident occurred May 01, 2019 in Tyrone, Blair County, Pennsylvania

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; New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Tyrone, Pennsylvania
Accident Number: ERA19FA161
Date & Time: May 1, 2019, 12:51 Local
Registration: N733KZ
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC 
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 when it was involved in an accident near Tyrone, Pennsylvania. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot filed an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan through the ForeFlight application for the intended flight from University Park Airport (UNV), State College, Pennsylvania, to Pittsburgh/Butler Regional Airport (BTP), Butler, Pennsylvania. According to audio recordings from the UNV air traffic control tower (ATCT), on initial contact with ground control, the pilot advised the controller that he had obtained automated terminal information service update Papa and requested to taxi to runway 24 for a westbound departure. The controller asked the pilot if he wanted to depart on the filed IFR flight plan or if he was “going VFR [visual flight rules],” and he replied he would depart under VFR. The controller then cleared the pilot for takeoff from runway 24, provided him an updated altimeter setting, and told him to advise when he departed class D airspace. The pilot acknowledged the instruction but ultimately did not advise the controller when he departed the airport’s airspace. No further communications were received from the pilot.

According to Federal Aviation Administration radar flight track data, the airplane departed about 1240 and remained on the runway heading for about 4.5 nautical miles (nm) while climbing to 2,500 ft mean sea level (msl). The airplane 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 airplane then turned to the same heading initially flown after takeoff, descended slightly, and then climbed back to about 2,000 ft msl over about 3 nm. The airplane entered a right turn before the flight track data were lost at 1251:07. At that time the airplane was at an altitude about 2,050 ft msl. The accident site was located about 700 ft north-northwest of the last radar data target, at an elevation of about 2,100 feet.

A witness located about 2,078 ft east-southeast from the accident site reported that, at the time of the accident, it was very foggy, but it was not raining. She heard a loud sounding airplane, which got her attention. She then saw the airplane flying below the fog, “straight” in a westerly direction then banking but not too steeply. She lost sight of the airplane when it went behind trees, followed by the sound of an explosion.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial 
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Unknown
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: BasicMed With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: June 20, 2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 583 hours (Total, all aircraft), 543 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. None of the pilot’s personal flight logs were available for review. Review of the pilot’s application to join the flying club that operated the accident airplane, which was submitted to the flying club in June 2017, revealed that he had accumulated 563 total hours of flight experience, of which 523 were in the accident airplane make and model. He also noted that he had accumulated 79 hours of instrument flight experience. On the application the pilot stated that his most recent flight was in May 2011. The pilot subsequently completed 13 flights in the accident airplane, over the course of 20.7 flight hours, between August 2017 and April 2019.

According to members of the flying club, a flight instructor flew in the accident airplane with the pilot, about 1 month before the accident after it had undergone maintenance for an extended time, and during which two Garmin G5 electronic flight instruments and a Garmin GFC 500 autopilot were installed. The club had advised pilots to fly the airplane with an instructor to refamiliarize themselves with the airplane and for a proficiency check.

The flight instructor who flew with the pilot stated that the proficiency flight covered loss of control, power-on and power-off stalls, steep turns, and emergency procedures. Because the instructor was not an instrument instructor, he did not cover topics that might have been addressed during an instrument proficiency check, but he did have the pilot fly for about 18 minutes using a vision restricting device. The flight instructor described that during that time, the pilot struggled to hold altitude, but he was within +/- 100 ft. The pilot mentioned that the likely reason he struggled to hold altitude was that the display format of the new electronic flight instruments were more responsive than the previously installed analog instruments. The pilot did not mention anything to him about his instrument flight experience or instrument currency. After the flight, flight instructor did not sign the pilot’s logbook, and he suggested he fly a few more times VFR to familiarize himself with the new electronic flight instruments.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N733KZ
Model/Series: 172 N 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1976
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility 
Serial Number: 17268363
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: March 15, 2019 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 20 Hrs
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7272.2 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-320-D2G
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 160 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Following the airplane’s last annual inspection on March 15, 2019, a maintenance facility employee conducted a test flight and deemed it satisfactory during all phases of flight. He reported that he was impressed with the autopilot system. Club personnel estimated that, excluding the accident flight, the airplane had been operated about 20 hours since the annual inspection. The president of the flying club conducted a 1.0-hour flight on April 30, 2019, which was the last flight of the accident airplane before the accident flight. He reported no issues with either the G5 or autopilot. The only discrepancy he noted was a 20-second loss of the GPS signal. There was no record that the airplane was flown after the president of the club flew it and the accident pilot began his flight.

The airplane’s altimeter, altitude reporting, and static system tests required by 14 CFR Part 91.411 and the transponder test required by 14 CFR Part 91.413 were last completed on November 14, 2018.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument (IMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: UNV,1231 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 12:53 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 72°
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility: 7 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1200 ft AGL 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 190° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C / 11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: State College, PA (UNV) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: Butler, PA (BTP) 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 12:40 Local 
Type of Airspace:

A review of ForeFlight records revealed that the pilot obtained preflight weather briefings at 0854 and 1125. The weather briefing package contained all the standard weather information, including valid and active AIRMETs Sierra and Tango, a current surface analysis graphic, METARs, pilot reports, graphical forecasts for aviation (GFA), TAFs, and winds aloft forecasts. He last checked the UNV airport information (which can include METAR and TAF information) about 1235. It could not be determined if the pilot checked or received any additional weather information before or during the flight.

AIRMET Sierra warned of instrument meteorological conditions and mountain obscuration due to clouds and mist, and AIRMET Tango warned of moderate turbulence between 2,000 ft msl and flight level 180. The GFA cloud forecast products indicated a broken-to-overcast cloud ceiling between 2,100 and 2,500 ft msl with cloud tops at 5,000 ft msl. The UNV TAF, which was issued at 1125, forecast an overcast ceiling at 1,000 feet above ground level (or about 2,400 ft msl) around the time of the departure.

The 1300 High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) sounding for the accident site indicated alternating layers of stable and conditionally unstable environments from the surface through 8,000 ft msl. The HRRR sounding also indicated that the cloud base was near 2,000 ft msl within about 1.6 nm of the accident site. The Rawinsonde Observation (RAOB) identified the possibility of clouds from between about 2,000 and 6,000 ft msl and indicated that a frontal inversion existed above the accident site at 4,348 ft msl with clouds below the inversion layer and no possibility of icing conditions below 14,000 ft msl. The RAOB indicated the possibility of light, low-level wind shear from the surface to about 3,500 ft msl and light-to-moderate clear-air turbulence (CAT) in several layers between the surface and 14,000 ft msl with moderate CAT between 3,000 and 5,000 ft msl. 

At 0658, the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center issued a Center Weather Service Unit Meteorological Impact Statement, which warned of patchy instrument meteorological conditions and isolated marginal visual flight rules conditions at the accident site and BTP with conditions valid through 1500.

At 0825, the National Weather Service Office, State College, Pennsylvania, issued an Area Forecast Discussion, and its aviation section reported widespread instrument meteorological conditions due to low cloud ceilings across the area with clouds remaining across the area through the morning with conditions improving from west to east in the afternoon.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: Aircraft
Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.764446,-78.211112

The airplane impacted heavily wooded terrain on a ridgeline with a maximum elevation in that area of about 2,275 ft msl. During examination of the accident site, pieces of the airframe were found in trees and on the ground. The cockpit and cabin exhibited extensive impact and fire damage. Wreckage pieces not found near the cockpit and cabin did not exhibit fire damage. The first identified tree contact was about 20 ft agl at an elevation of 2,122 ft msl. The outer portion of the right wing was found along the energy path about 63 ft past the tree, and the first identified ground contact location, which is where the rudder counterweight was found, was about 80 ft from the right wing’s outer section.

The farthest identified wreckage, which comprised the engine assembly and the attached propeller, one side of the horizontal stabilizer with attached elevator, the cockpit, and a section of wing were found at an elevation of 2,181 ft msl. All primary and secondary flight controls and primary structure were accounted for at the accident site.

Examination of the airframe revealed that the fuselage was consumed by postcrash fire from the cockpit to about fuselage station 166. The left horizontal/elevator remained attached to the fuselage with the counterweight attached. The pitch trim actuator was extended about 1.25 inches, which equated to 0° or neutral. Both elevator and rudder control cables remained connected at their respective bellcranks. The elevator bridle cable was attached to the primary control cable and was wrapped around the autopilot trim capstan, which rotated freely. The outboard portion of the left elevator was partially consumed by fire.

The vertical stabilizer’s main spar was attached, but it was fractured about 12 inches up from the attachment point. The right horizontal stabilizer had separated and exhibited a semicircular indentation about 37 inches outboard of the attachment point. The impact angle correlated to about a 18° right bank.

The elevator counterweight was separated. The full span of the elevator trim tab remained connected to the elevator. The pushrod remained connected to the trim tab and elevator trim actuator but was fractured, and the actuator had separated. The rudder counterweight had separated. The elevator trim cable was separated from the chain; both cables were fractured in tension overload.

Examination of the flight control cables for roll, pitch, and yaw revealed that, except for a section of the right aileron primary control cable near the control yoke, which was not found; cables that were cut for recovery; or cables that exhibited tension overload, revealed no evidence of any preaccident failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operations. No threads were extended at the flap actuator consistent with flaps retracted.

Both wings were fragmented in multiple pieces and exhibited semicircular indentations on their leading edges consistent with tree contacts. The pitot tube opening was free of obstructions, and electrical wires were noted going to the pitot tube.

Initial examination of the engine revealed that it remained attached to its respective engine mount, which remained attached to the firewall. The engine was covered in yellow fire retardant residue and exhibited postimpact fire damage. The starter ring gear was fractured. One magneto remained attached to the engine, but the other was detached from the accessory section. The carburetor exhibited impact damage and was not attached to the engine, but it was held into its location via the throttle control cable.

Further examination of the engine revealed impact damage to the rocker box covers on the Nos. 1 and 3 cylinders and bent and smashed pushrods on the exhaust side of the No. 1 cylinder. Both pushrods on the No. 4 cylinder were bent and smashed. The engine crankshaft was rotated about 60° through the vacuum pump accessory drive, but it could not be fully rotated. Inspection of the cylinders with a borescope revealed that some of the cylinders exhibited corrosion and debris, but all the valves were found intact. Examination of the crankshaft revealed that the propeller flange was bent rearward between about 30° and 40°. The top and lower spark plugs exhibited normal coloration and were in normal-to-worn condition. No electrode damage was noted on any of the spark plugs.

Both magnetos failed to produce spark when rotated using a cordless drill. Further examination of the left magneto revealed that the impulse coupling assembly was “locked” and heavily corroded. The flyweights of the impulse coupling assembly were free to move, although, after removal, the impulse coupling assembly was still seized. During a bench test, the magneto was operated to 1,000 rpm, and it did not produce spark. Safety concerns prevented higher rpm operation. The magneto was disassembled, which revealed heat damage to the distributor block, support bar, insulation of the electrical wire from the capacitor to the contact points, the electrical wire from the primary side of the coil to the contact points, and the ground wire from the coil. The ground side of the electrical wire was removed, and the resistance of the primary side coil was 0.7 to 0.8 ohm (specification is 0.5 to 1.2 ohm), and the secondary side of the coil resistance readings showed an open circuit, likely due to the damage to the coil. The contact points opened and closed through 360° of rotation. No discrepancies were noted with the rotor gear, distributor block, or distributor gear. The capacitor and the electrical wire insulation exhibited heat damage. Operational testing of the capacitor revealed that the leakage and series resistance tests were satisfactory, but the capacity test was .115 microfarad too high. The impulse coupling assembly, which was soaked for more than 1 hour, was mechanically moved, and spring tension was observed, and the spring was intact, and the flyweights worked satisfactorily.

Examination of the right magneto revealed heat damage to the ignition harness cover, and the ignition leads insulation was melted. The hex of the capacitor of the P-Lead attachment exhibited heat damage. During a bench test, the magneto produced spark at 400 rpm, but it misfired at 1,000 and 1,200 magneto rpm. The magneto produced spark at 2,000 magneto rpm with no discrepancies noted. Disassembly of the magneto revealed a flat spot to the insulation of the electrical wire from the capacitor to the contact points near the capacitor, which was likely due to heat and not abrasion. Examination of the rotor gear, support bar, copper electrode of the distributor gear, carbon brush, and distributor block revealed no evidence of preaccident failures or malfunctions. The coil primary and secondary resistance values, e-gap, and the capacitor were within specifications.

Examination of the lubrication and fuel metering systems revealed no evidence of preaccident failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. Examination of the propeller, which remained attached to the engine, revealed that both blades exhibited “S” type bending and gouging on the leading edge. Three tree branches, which were about .75 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter, were found at the accident site, and they exhibited cut marks consistent with propeller impact.

Organizational and Management Information

The president, maintenance officer, and treasurer of the flying club that operated the airplane all reported that the pilot-in-command was responsible for dispatching a flight, decision making, and risk assessment. The club did not have any bylaws or standard operating procedures that stipulated minimum weather conditions or qualifications for intended flights in either visual or instrument meteorological conditions nor did it have a risk assessment program in place. Part II of the club’s “Flying and Safety Rules” specified that “Club members shall operate Club aircraft in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulations, state, airport and
Club Flying and Safety Rules at all times….” and failure to comply shall result in disciplinary action by the club.


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

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.

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  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!