Thursday, November 11, 2021

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, N90559: Fatal accident occurred November 11, 2021 in Branchville, Sussex County, New Jersey

Thomas Peter Fischer

Flight school owner, instructor, advocate for general aviation, 54 Tom Fischer of Lake Hopatcong NJ was doing what he loved best-teaching the art and science of aviation-when he died in a tragic accident in Sussex County on November 11, 2021. Ten years ago, Tom opened Fischer Aviation flight school at Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey, with his wife of 13 years, Jodi Dornfest Fischer.  Tom - who was lovingly called "Tucker" by Jodi and stepson Zachary Dornfest-taught an eclectic array of students, some as young as nine years old, how to fly airplanes.

A native of River Vale, Tom grew up around planes at Teterboro Airport, where his father and uncles operated the original Fischer Aviation, and where he had his first flight lesson at age 12. His intense work ethic, ability to teach students of all ages and levels, and his attention to safety made him a highly sought-after flight instructor. He was a Gold Seal Certificated Flight Instructor who taught hundreds of people how to fly. Some of them would go on to become certificated flight instructors themselves. 

In 2009, when working for another flight school, Tom became famous after safely landing a plane in the parking lot of Rockaway Townsquare Mall. The plane had suffered engine failure, and both Tom and his student walked away without harm. When Tom wasn't instructing students, he was a passionate advocate for general aviation. He took the task of representing the aviation industry to the broader public just as seriously as he took the teaching of it to his students. After his emergency landing in the parking lot of Rockaway Townsquare Mall, he appeared on several news programs explaining how all pilots train to handle just such an occurrence. 

Later, he appeared on a popular morning news show to talk about the joys of flying and how just about anyone could learn to fly. He was also the subject of a four part series in Popular Mechanics magazine where novelist Joshua Ferris described how Tom helped him to overcome his aerophobia and taught him to fly. 

Among his other passions, Tom was a lifelong animal lover and animal advocate who doted on the family's beloved pit bulls, Daisy and Turin; he also loved studying history. 

In addition to Jodi and Zachary, Tom is survived by his mother Myrna Marshall and stepfather Jon Saxe; father Raymond Fischer and his wife, Rosemarie Lopez Fischer; sisters Aleta Fischer and Stacey Fischer, and brother Chris Fischer. 

A celebration of Tom's life is being planned for the spring.

Fischer Aviation

Hi all this is Fiona one of Tom's students. I would like to share the below message I recently posted on my wall.

A short month ago my instructor Thomas Fischer of died in a fatal crash.

This small business was already suffering due to COVID-19 lockdowns and closures. And now that Tom Fischer has passed, his family Jodi Martucci Fischer and Zach have had to shut down the business in addition to dealing with this tragic loss.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to collect money for Tom's celebration of life planned to occur next year with any left over to help Jodi and Zach.

Please take a few moments and consider: 

Sharing on social media.

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 traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allentown, Pennsylvania 

Hanuman Aviation LLC

Fischer Aviation 

Location: Branchville, New Jersey
Accident Number: ERA22FA058
Date and Time: November 11, 2021, 10:48 Local 
Registration: N90559
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On November 11, 2021, about 1048 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172S, N90559, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Branchville, New Jersey. The flight instructor and a private pilot receiving instruction were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

Preliminary flight track data was obtained from OpsVue, a commercially available web-based product that geo-reference’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data sources. Review of the flight track data revealed the airplane departed from Essex County Airport (CDW), Caldwell, New Jersey about 1030 and flew predominately in a northwesterly direction as it climbed. The airplane reached an altitude of about 6,400 ft mean sea level, before entering a steep descending left turn that continued until the flight track data was lost.

The airplane came to rest oriented on a magnetic heading of 330° in a wooded area. All major components of the airplane were located at the accident site. The fuselage from the firewall to the empennage was crushed and impact damaged. The instrument panel and cockpit were destroyed by impact forces. Both wings remained partially attached to the fuselage, and the ailerons and flaps were impact damaged. Flight control cable continuity was observed from the primary flight control surfaces to the cockpit controls. The horizontal stabilizers and vertical stabilizer remained attached to the empennage but displayed damage consistent with impact.

The left and right elevators remained partially attached to their respective horizontal stabilizers and the rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer, all displayed impact damage.

Initial examination of the engine did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange and displayed chordwise scoring and aft bending. Several trees and tree branches near the accident site exhibited fresh cuts consistent with propeller strikes.

The airplane was recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N90559
Model/Series: 172S 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file
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: CDW,173 ft msl
Observation Time: 09:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C /1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 80°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.32 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Caldwell, NJ (CDW)
Destination: Branchville, NJ

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 41.0791,-74.4785 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290. 

Tom Fischer and Glen de Vries

Glen de Vries

Stillwater Area Volunteer Fire Company -  
At approximately 4:15pm yesterday afternoon the Hampton, Stillwater, and Fredon Fire Departments were dispatched to a report of an aircraft down in the woods in Bear Swamp near Walnut St in the Kemah Lake Section of Hampton Township.  

Chief Dave Gunderman and Chief Steven Sugar arrived on scene shortly after and set up a staging area on Walnut Street.  

Chief Gunderman assumed Command of the Incident and Chief Sugar assumed Operation Command and made entry into the woods with a small team of Fire personnel and New Jersey State Police. 

The aircraft was located approximately 1800 feet in the woods by New Jersey State Police Helicopter NorthStar and a civilian aircraft. 

The victims were found deceased in the aircraft and crews began marking out a trail to get more personnel and equipment into the scene to begin extrication. 

UTVs from Stillwater, Fredon, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service brought in the Jaws of Life and cut a road in with chainsaws to the crash site. 

Once the New Jersey State Police concluded their investigation a lengthy extrication took place to remove the victims and transport them out to the staging area.  

Once the victims were extricated the operation ceased for the night and resumed at 8am this morning.  

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board arrived to conduct their investigation.  

While that took place New Jersey Forest Fire Service cut in another road to bring machinery in to remove the plane.

Once again members of Hampton, Stillwater, and Fredon used extrication tools to assist with removing parts of the plane for the investigation.  

The plane was removed from the woods at approximately 6 p.m. this evening.  

The Sussex County Hazmat team then took over the clean up of the area and all units cleared from the scene. 

We would like to thank Ogdensburg, Frankford, Highland Lakes, and Lafayette Fire Departments along with the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management, Sussex County Hazmat Team and New Jersey Forest Fire Service for their assistance during this call.  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the pilots during this tragic event.

Stillwater Area Volunteer Fire Company

Tom Fischer, certified flight instructor and owner/operator of Fischer Aviation in Fairfield, New Jersey

 Glen de Vries

The owner and head instructor of Fischer Aviation, a family-run flight school in Essex County, and a New York City man who joined actor William Shatner on a trip to space last month have been identified as the two people killed in a plane crash in Hampton on Thursday, state police said.

Thomas P. Fischer, 54, of the Jefferson portion of Lake Hopatcong, a second generation flight instructor, was killed along with Glen M. de Vries, 49, of New York City, according to Trooper Brandi Slota, a New Jersey State police spokesperson.

The Federal Aviation Administration alerted public safety authorities around 3 p.m. Thursday that the single-engine Cessna 172 went missing near Kemah Lake. Emergency crews found the wreckage around 4 p.m. 

Police said the aircraft was on its way to Sussex Airport from Essex County Airport in Caldwell.

Maria Njoku, a spokesperson for the FAA, said Friday that a preliminary report on investigators' findings of why the plane may have crashed will be released in about a week. An initial report on the FAA website shows the aircraft was "destroyed" in the crash, which occurred "under unknown circumstances."

The Carnegie Mellon University trustee and founder of Medidata Solutions, a tech company, de Vries traveled into space on October 13 aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft, fulfilling an apparent lifelong dream

"We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries," Blue Origin said in a statement Friday. "He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired."

De Vries began his private pilot training with Fischer in February 2016, according to the Fischer Aviation website. He often posted on his social media about his flights and purchased his own single-engine Diamond aircraft in 2020. In an Instagram post in early October, de Vries displayed an FAA-issued Pilot Proficiency badge while posing with his plane at Essex County Airport. The badge is given to pilots who maintain proficiency in flight basics to help mitigate accidents due to pilot errors, lack of proficiency and faulty knowledge, according to the FAA website.

ischer opened his flight school in March 2012 with his wife, Jodi, and had logged thousands of hours in the sky and obtained several advanced certifications. Author Joshua Ferris wrote a four-part series for the magazine "Popular Mechanics" in 2015, documenting his attempts at learning to fly under the direction of Fischer.

In 2009, Fischer was lauded after he successfully landed a Cessna aircraft in a parking lot at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall with a student pilot aboard, according to several news reports. Authorities found an oil leak caused the engine of the plane to shut down about one mile east of the mall, forcing Fischer to target an open area to land. The plane struck a median and tree before it nose-dived on the asphalt near JCPenney, leaving Fischer and the student pilot with minor injuries. It was not the same plane involved in Thursday's crash.

The unusually quiet Kemah Lake community was an active scene Thursday evening, as local firefighters used UTVs to assist authorities into an illuminated tract of the heavily wooded Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area off Fenner Road.

The aircraft that went down Thursday is believed to have been reported inaccurately on the FAA website, although a spokesperson did not respond to a request for clarification. The track of what is believed to have been the aircraft departed Essex Airport at 10:30 a.m. and was last seen at 10:47 a.m., according to, a digital aviation company. The flight track shows the last known location in Hampton Township.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Tom Fischer


  1. Final received ADS-B data points report ground speeds of 19 and 18 knots while descending from 4700 MSL to 4325 MSL over a four second interval, which is a vertical rate of -5,625 ft/min if data recorded is accurate.

    The accident circumstances appear to be such that a parachute system could have made a difference in the outcome, since the crash location near Lake Kemah and Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area is less than 1,000 MSL elevation.

    1. This aircraft had UAT ADS-B out, which has far fewer feeders on ADSBX and FlightAware. If you look at previous flights in the same area, you will see frequent ADS-B data dropouts and discontinuities, so it is hard to make definitive conclusions from this incomplete data. The FAA's ADS-B ground stations may provide better data when released.

  2. The ADSB showed cruise at about 5500ft and 115mph. Then speed drops to 60mph while attitude was unchanged. Weather does. Ot seen to be a factor. The photo of the crashed plane shows it intact (all 4 corners) vertical crushing similar to spin accidents. speculation but it could be stall practice gone wrong. Unlikely but it does match the data I see.

    1. Accidents that appear to be LOC crashes while practicing stalls are seen in these reports on a regular basis. You have to wonder what transpired after the wingtip dropped and the event began.

      In those crashes the instructor may have waited too long to step in and correct a bad recovery or there could have been a "frozen on the controls" situation that some instructors talk about.

      Maybe flight trainers should use a BRS-equipped aircraft to evaluate trainee pilot response during stall practice. Exhibiting repeated incorrect response or unrelenting fear/panic would be cause to keep that person in a BRS-equipped aircraft for all subsequent training and flight reviews.

      Kinda surprised that insurance companies and BRS system manufacturers and companies selling BRS-equipped aircraft haven't lobbied for that as a flight training regulation.

      Add some cockpit cameras to those BRS-equipped trainers that ended up handling the small group of identified more likely to crash trainees and there would eventually be a library of "this is what typically happens" videos of LOC during stall training..

  3. "The photo of the crashed plane shows it intact (all 4 corners) vertical crushing similar to spin accidents."

    Really? I can't see those things. I see a trampled/muddy foreground which I assume is from the rescue/recovery team and a missing cockpit area which I assume is after the use of the "Jaws of Life" tool. Not much in situ as far as the photograph is concerned.

    1. The picture indicates a vertical descent rather than a horizontal, all components are confined to a central location.

    2. Isn't that the left wing behind the right wing? There must be more pictures than this ?

  4. I’m wondering (which is all I can do without more details) if carbon-monoxide poisoning is at play. Hard to explain why an airplane with two qualified pilots on board would “fall out of the sky.”

    1. Offering the following, knowing that CO is odorless:

      It is unfortunate that no published CO incapacitation timeline info exists for exhaust leakage at a level just below the cabin concentration where a pilot can detect exhaust odor.

      It is well known that CO is odorless and has a cumulative exposure effect that produces carboxyhemoglobinemia in the blood, making it possible for very low rates of exhaust leakage to incapacitate over time. Mooney N9149V provided an excellent example of that.

      A 20 minute flight seems too short for CO impairment to be a factor if two experienced pilots did not detect exhaust odor in the cabin, but there is no reference table available to provide the definitive answer.

      Mooney N9149V CO example:

    2. CO impairment, while possible, is unlikely because Cessna added a built-in CO sensor to the onboard avionics of their G1000-equipped 172s in 2006, so this 2011 model almost definitely had one.

    3. It is worth noting that aircraft CO detectors are subject to Non Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) provisions.

      The detectors self-test on power up and there is a manufacturer's 5 year factory re-calibration / replacement recommendation to handle sensor usable life of 5-7 years.

      It would be interesting to know whether operator protocols respond to failure of a CO detector by removing a training or rental aircraft from service until the detector is restored.

      The NORSEE distinction also raises the question of CFI or pilot responsibility to brief students or PAX when an installed CO detector is malfunctioning, disconnected or out of the bird for calibration or replacement.

      With OEM's including CO detectors in certified aircraft, it may only be a matter of time before a medical examiner finds evidence of CO poisoning after a crash of an aircraft flown with the NORSEE CO detector inoperative, disconnected or removed for re-calibration / replacement.

      "Non Required" might lose it's meaning after one lawsuit.

      FAA docs:$FILE/PS-AIR-21.8-1602.pdf

  5. 10:47:46 L
    Speed: 96 kt
    Altitude: 4,700 ft
    Vert. Rate: -192 ft/min
    Track: 158.0°
    Pos.: 41.126°, -74.797°

    a change in SPEED and TRACK.
    Speed: 19 kt
    Altitude: 4,700 ft
    Vert. Rate: -192 ft/min
    Track: 111.3°
    Pos.: 41.126°, -74.797

    Speed: 19 kt
    Altitude: 4,550 ft
    Vert. Rate: -192 ft/min
    Track: 111.3°
    Pos.: 41.126°, -74.796

    last recorded transmission
    Speed: 18 kt
    Altitude: 4,325 ft
    Vert. Rate: -192 ft/min
    Track: 93.2°
    Pos.: 41.126°, -74.796°

    1. @Gbear - Part of the reason for that change/discontinuity is because those last three data points at 47:46, 47:47 and 47:50 are TIS-B from radar hits, not ADS-B. Click those points and hover over them to see the data source.

  6. estimated line of sight 18 mile distance between last recorded ADS-B transmission of 41.126,-74.796 and "Impact Information of Latitude, Longitude: 41.0791,-74.4785 (est)"

    1. Yep, ADS-B reception was bad in the area around the crash site. Never assume what you see on FlightAware or ADS-B exchange is anywhere close to the full flight track in remote locations. On some of my cross countries, I'm lucky to see over half of the flight tracked via ADS-B.

    2. It's true that what you see on FlightAware or ADS-B exchange is often not anywhere close to the full flight track in remote locations, but ADS-B receiver coverage wasn't the problem in this case.

      If you checked a few, you would never assume that the estimated impact location coordinates in a NTSB report are correct. This one is a great example. NTSB estimated location being 18 miles away should cause you to look again at the details.

      The road closure and reported impact location was near Walnut St in the Kemah Lake Section of Hampton Township.

      The captured ADS-B track ends over Kemah Lake:

      Walnut street is at Kemah Lake:,+Hampton+Township,+NJ+07860/@41.1182872,-74.7814395,12z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c365f282948fc3:0xd69d4f5589c7e3b8!8m2!3d41.1250601!4d-74.7932198

  7. Was there ever a final final report to this accident with Tom and Glen? Still many do not have answers to what really happened.


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