Monday, December 30, 2019

Grumman American AA-5A Cheetah, N26455: Fatal accident occurred December 29, 2019 near College Park Airport (KCGS), Prince George's County, Maryland

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; College Park, Maryland
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: College Park, MD
Accident Number: ERA20FA060
Date & Time: 12/29/2019, 1448 EST
Registration: N26455
Aircraft: American Aviation AA5
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On December 29, 2019, at 1448 eastern standard time, a Grumman American Aviation AA-5A, N26455, was destroyed when it impacted terrain and houses shortly after takeoff from College Park Airport (CGS), College Park, Maryland. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed CGS at 1445, and was destined for Westchester County Airport (HPN), White Plains, New York.

Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the pilot contacted Leidos flight service and received a standard weather briefing that included pertinent weather information along the route. The pilot received his instrument departure clearance while on the ground prior to takeoff and was instructed to maintain runway heading until reaching controlled airspace (750 ft mean sea level (msl)), then turn to 050° and climb to 2,000 ft.

Radar data revealed the airplane departed Runway 15 and maintained an approximate heading of between 140° and 150° and climbed for about 1 mile as it tracked slightly right of the extended runway centerline. When the airplane reached an altitude of about 1,200 ft the pilot established communication with air traffic control and was instructed to climb to 5,000 ft and turn to a 310° heading once the airplane climbed above 1,700 ft.

The airplane entered a right turn and climbed to about 1,900 ft before entering a right spiraling descent. The controller issued a low-altitude alert as the airplane descended through 700 ft before radar and voice communications were lost. At 1447, the final radar target was about over the accident site at an altitude of 525 ft and 153 knots groundspeed.

Multiple witnesses near the accident site described hearing the airplane's engine noise, but they did not witness the accident. One witness said the sound of the engine was "loud" prior to impact. Another witness said he heard the airplane travel "directly over the house." He further stated that the airplane was not visible due to weather conditions at the time which were "serious IFR." He said the sound of the airplane's engine was continuous until it "suddenly cut off." Two witnesses reported hearing the engine "sputter."

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on August 27, 2019, and he reported 2,100 total hours of flight experience on that date.

The two-seat airplane was manufactured in 1978. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series, 150-horsepower engine.

At 1448, the weather recorded at CGS included wind calm, visibility 2 statute miles, overcast ceiling at 500 ft, temperature 10°C, dew point was 9°C and an altimeter setting of 30.03 inches of mercury.

The airplane impacted in a residential neighborhood. The wreckage was examined at the accident site and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was about 170 ft long, oriented about a 250° magnetic heading, and debris was spread between two houses, across a street, and into the driveway and carport of a third house. All three houses were damaged.

The initial impact point was in trees, where multiple branches displayed angular cuts. Several pieces of angularly cut branches were found along the wreckage patch. The main wreckage was about 50 ft along the wreckage path, where the fuselage and the empennage were largely consumed by fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed, through several breaks, from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit controls. All breaks displayed features consistent with overload failure.

The main spar was separated from the airframe and fractured into several pieces. The left wing was partially consumed by fire, the left flap and aileron were separated and located along the debris path. The right wing, aileron, and flap were found separated along the debris path. The rudder remained attached to the empennage structure, the vertical stabilizer was separated. The right horizontal stabilizer remained attached, the left horizontal stabilizer was separated. Both elevators were separated from the empennage.

The fuel selector was found in the "RIGHT" position. The electric fuel pump was separated from its mount and punctured. The engine driven fuel pump was separated from the engine and not located.

The engine was impact separated and located at the end of the debris path. The crankcase appeared intact. The cylinders were examined with a borescope. No anomalies were observed on the visible portions of the pistons, cylinder walls, or valves. The No. 1 cylinder was displaced aft but remained attached to the crankcase, the flange was bowed. The Nos. 1 and 2 cylinders had bent pushrods. When actuated by hand through and accessory drive pad, the engine would not rotate.

The rocker box covers were removed; the valve springs and rocker assemblies were all intact with no anomalies observed. The top spark plugs were removed from the engine for inspection. The electrodes were new to slightly worn and light gray in color when compared to a Champion Check-A-Plug chart. The No. 1 spark plug ceramic insulator was fractured.

The carburetor was separated from the intake manifold and was impact and heat damaged, the control cables were not attached to their respective arms.

The propeller and hub were separated from the engine crankshaft consistent with impact damage. One propeller blade was mildly bent aft with no noticeable twist and exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise scratches. The other propeller blade was bent aft at the mid-span with a slight twist. It exhibited chordwise scratches and leading-edge gouging, with streaks of missing white paint, and the tip was separated by impact.

The directional gyro was removed from the wreckage and disassembled. Rotational scoring was present on the spinning gyro and its housing. The vacuum pump was removed from the engine and disassembled. The rotor displayed several fractures that were consistent with impact damage, and the vanes were undamaged.

The wreckage was retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: American Aviation
Registration: N26455
Model/Series: AA5 A
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: KCGS, 50 ft msl
Observation Time:1948 EST 
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C / 9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 500 ft agl
Visibility:  2 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: College Park, MD (CGS)
Destination: White Plains, NY (HPN)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 38.971389, -76.893056

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 

Doug Brazy 
National Transportation Safety Board

A man died when his small plane crashed into a home near the College Park Airport in Prince George's County, Maryland, Sunday afternoon, state police said.

The  Grumman American AA-5A Cheetah struck a carport attached to a house and a parked car before catching fire about 3 p.m., said Mark Brady, spokesperson for the Prince George's County Fire Department. Brady said the car and part of the house also caught fire.

Firefighters found 61-year-old Gordon Allen of Bronx, New York, dead inside the plane. No one was at the home at the time of the crash and there appear to be no other injuries, Brady said.

The crash happened near Auburn and Chestnut avenues in New Carrollton, which is about three miles south of where the plane took off at the College Park Airport about 2:45 p.m., authorities said.

The pilot was in communication with air traffic control and the plane was on Federal Aviation Administration radar.

About three minutes after takeoff at 700 feet, the plane started to descend to the right. It struck several trees and the carport and caused a large fire, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Witnesses said it was very loud.

Two homes on Chestnut Avenue were struck by debris, according to the NTSB.

At least 18 homes lost power because of the crash, state police said.

The FAA confirmed to WNBC that the plane was headed to Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York.

There were showers and completely overcast skies in the area at the time of the crash, Storm Team4's Amelia Draper said. NTSB reports there was 2 miles of visibility and light rain. The investigation will look deeper into weather conditions.

Firefighters with the College Park Fire Department and the Prince George's County Fire Department responded. Fire crews checked for fuel runoff.

The pilot had a proper license for the plane and his medical certification was up to date, according to the NTSB. An autopsy and toxicology report is to come.

The FAA and the NTSB are investigating the crash.

All major components of the plane are at the scene and are expected to be moved to a salvage facility Monday, according to the NTSB. The investigation will continue at the salvage facility.

A preliminary report is expected in about 10 days, according to the NTSB. That will not include a probable cause. Investigations like this take about 18 months.

Witnesses should contact the NTSB at

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