Sunday, December 27, 2020

Cessna 172C Skyhawk, N8311X: Accident occurred December 27, 2020 in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County, New York

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Teterboro, New Jersey 

Location: Pleasant Valley, NY 
Accident Number: ERA21LA091
Date & Time: December 27, 2020, 15:00 Local 
Registration: N8311X
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On December 27, 2020, about 1500 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172C, N8311X, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Pleasant Valley, New York. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

According to the student pilot, after a normal preflight inspection she departed with 27 gallons of fuel and planned to remain in the traffic pattern to practice takeoffs and landings. She deployed partial flaps and carburetor heat on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. Shortly thereafter, the engine experienced an rpm reduction, which was followed by a total loss of engine power during the turn from the base leg to the final approach leg of the traffic pattern. The student pilot performed the emergency checklist and
cycled the magnetos, then declared an emergency and performed a forced landing to a wooded area.

The airplane came to rest inverted in swampy terrain amongst trees and sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage.

The airplane was recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna Registration: N8311X
Model/Series: 172 C Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: POU,166 ft msl
Observation Time: 14:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C /-8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 230°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.28 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Pleasant Valley, NY
Destination: Pleasant Valley, NY

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 41.717864,-73.74979 (est)
As officials continue to figure out what caused a plane to crash Sunday in Dutchess County, aviation experts are applauding a teen's quick thinking that saved her life.

The 17-year-old Dutchess resident, who had been cleared to fly alone, went up like many other times before. However, on Sunday, officials say her single engine plane began experiencing engine failure just short of runway 17 at Sky Acres Airport.

Below her were high voltage power lines, marshland and houses.

"As she was getting ready to land, she started losing power," said aviation expert and attorney Sal Lagonia. "[She] wanted to make sure she avoided those power lines. So she put the thing down in a nice flight spat, which is exactly what you trained to do ... she did an excellent job."

The teen was able to walk away from the emergency landing.

Her dad, who happens to be a pilot and asked to remain anonymous, says she's a bit sore but is a tough young woman who has dreams of flying for a living with the Air Force.

After nine years of race car driving, Samantha Muller is familiar with making quick decisions, her father said.

That's exactly what was needed Sunday afternoon during a training flight.

Piloting a  Cessna 172C Skyhawk and approaching Sky Acres Airport, it became evident to Muller that she could not make it over power lines to reach the runway, Scott Muller told the Journal.

"She had a choice and it's all woods," the father said. "The only place she had open was under the powerlines and she managed to get it down in there. That's pretty remarkable. I don't know if I could have squeezed in there."

Samantha Muller crashed the plane in a wooded area near Gidley Road around 3 p.m., just north of Sky Acres in LaGrangeville. The sole occupant, she was able to walk away without injuries, and nobody was harmed outside of the plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration Monday said the plane had a "rough-running engine," and an investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Samantha Muller visited her doctor's office Monday to get her neck and head checked out. Her father said he wasn't going to transport her to the hospital on Sunday, due to COVID-19. 

Samantha Muller's goal is to become a pilot, Scott Muller said, adding that his side of the family has a history of being pilots including himself. He and his father, Peter, own the plane together.

"I was 15 when I started flying," Scott Muller said. "And then I stopped pursuing it but then I got my license 17 years ago."

The plane's certification was issued November 19, 2004 and it is valid for flying, per the FAA website. The site lists Scott Muller as having a private pilot's license, but does not list license information for Samantha.

Trooper A.J. Hicks, Troop K state police spokesperson, said it is "My understanding is that it was a training flight, take off, fly around and come back."

State police and the LaGrange Fire Department responded to the crash. The Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response, as well as the county's Hazardous Materials team, also responded to the site to assist and address any fuel leak issues.

"The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate," Arlene Salac, FAA spokesperson, said. "The NTSB determines the probable cause of an accident. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents."

Near site of deadly crash

The crash comes roughly 16 months after a deadly plane crash into a home in the area of Sky Acres.

On August 17, 2019, a Cessna 303 Crusader took off from Sky Acres, experienced engine problems and struck the south side of the two-story Union Vale home on South Smith Road.

Three members of the household were home at the time and one, Gerard Bocker, 61, was killed. The pilot, Francisco Knipping-Diaz, 61, was also killed, though his two passengers survived.

That Union Vale home is 2.8 miles southeast from Sunday's crash. It was unclear how close the Sunday crash was to the nearest house.

Sky Acres Airport is a non-towered and uncontrolled airport, Dana Smith, the county commissioner of emergency response, said in August 2019. There is no communication with pilots flying to or from uncontrolled airports.

Following the Union Vale plane wreck, multiple residents expressed concerns about regulations at the airport, who provides oversight and what action the town could take to protect itself from future incidents. 


  1. We were flying near 4B8 when we heard reports of a downed aircraft (we share the same frequency). We diverted, and flew a SAR pattern with no luck finding the aircraft. I then attempted an ELT search via wing null and was able to spot the aircraft inverted near the power lines. Once we landed back in CT, I called NY tracon and spoke to a controller who informed me that the student pilot landed unharmed.

    BRAVO!! I cannot tell you how filled with relief and joy when I heard that. As a student pilot, you did an amazing job of getting on the ground safely. Some people quit after an experience like this. Please don't let this stop you - you will be a great pilot (and already are). I'm so very happy you are unharmed. Planes can be replaced - people can not.

    To the helicopter and other aircraft that helped with the search, thank you. Our humanity was on display here, and this was a great way to end 2020.

  2. Here's the info on the pilot.

    Personal Information


    Airman opted-out of releasing address
    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: Third Medical Date: 8/2020
    BasicMed Course Date: None BasicMed CMEC Date: None
    Certificates Description
    Certificate: STUDENT PILOT
    Date of Issue: 8/15/2020


  3. As Bob Hoover pointed out fly the aircraft all the way down right to the end,well done young lady you will go far.


  4. The 0-300 are very prone to carb icing.
    Put the carb heat to "hot" when reducing power to land, and don't move it unless you are vacating the runway, or after application of full power on the go-around.

    1. Not sure if she added carb heat on downwind, but recordings at 2010 UTC you can hear her say she was having engine trouble. Someone on the ground replied to put in carb heat if it is off, and she replied it was on already.

    2. late carb heat takes time !!
      1. Power – 20002700 RPM
      2. Elevator – TRIM
      3. Mixture – LEAN
      1. Seats, belts, harnesses - ADJ
      2. Mixture – RICH (CHK DENSITY ALT)
      3. Radio (s) – SET
      4. Landing light – ON
      5. Carb heat ON any significant reduction of power
      1. Final Approach Airspeed –60 KIAS
      2. Flaps – FULL
      3. Touchdown Airspeed - Slowest Possible Airspeed
      4. Touchdown – MAINS FIRST
      5. Landing roll – LOWER NOSE GENTLY
      6. Braking – MINIMUM REQ’D

  5. WX from scrolling 3 day history for KPOU (8 nm SW):

    Day/ EST/ Wind/ Vis/ WX/ Sky/ T /Dp/Rh/Altimeter
    27 14:53 SW 6 10.00 Fair CLR 36 18 48% 30.28

    Icing probability chart:$FILE/CE-09-35.pdf

  6. in conclusion, "Throttle Ice
    Throttle ice forms when your throttle is partially closed, typically between cruise power and idle. As air moves through the the Venturi in your carburetor, it decreases in temperature, condensing water vapor from the air. The water then starts freezing to the carburetor parts, restricting airflow. Eventually, you'll start losing RPM or manifold pressure, your engine may start running rough, and if the ice gets bad enough, your engine will quit.
    Turn on your carb heat, and prepare for some nasty sounds. Carb heat directs warm air into your carburetor, which starts melting the ice. Where does the ice go? Through your engine, making it cough, wheeze and shake until the ice is gone. It's not fun to hear, but stick with it, because it will eventually get better. There are countless NTSB report where pilots turned off carb heat because they thought they were making the situation worse, only to totally lose the engine shortly after. You don't want to be one of those statistics."


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.