Saturday, November 06, 2021

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, N8924Y: Fatal accident occurred November 05, 2021 near Rock Hill – York County Airport (KUZA), South Carolina

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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Columbia, South Carolina 
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida

Robert Anthony Prestininzi

Location: Rock Hill, South Carolina
Accident Number: ERA22FA047
Date and Time: November 5, 2021, 19:26 Local
Registration: N8924Y
Aircraft: Piper PA30
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 5, 2021, about 1926 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-30 airplane, N8924Y, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Rock Hill, South Carolina. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot departed the Rock Hill (York County) Airport-Bryant Field (UZA), Rock Hill, South Carolina, in another airplane with a friend to fly to the Savannah-Hardin County Airport (SNH), Savannah, Tennessee, to pick up the accident airplane, which he had recently purchased. The mechanic who had performed the last annual inspection on the airplane, received a call from the pilot at SNH during which the pilot told him that it was his first flight in a twin Comanche, and they discussed the fuel tanks. The pilot indicated that he was going to fly to the Hartselle-Morgan County Regional Airport (5M0), Hartselle, Alabama, to pick up the airplane’s logbooks.

The pilot later called the mechanic from 5M0 and stated, “Well, I made my first flight in a twin Comanche. Everything went great.” He further stated that he had picked up the airplane’s logbooks and that his next stop was the LaGrange-Callaway Airport (LGC), LaGrange, Georgia before returning to UZA. Fuel purchase receipts indicated that 35.78 gallons of 100 LL aviation gasoline were purchased at LGC at 1620.

The pilot subsequently called the mechanic from the airplane at 1838 to report that he was in the vicinity of UZA and the landing gear circuit breaker kept popping. The pilot began to circle south of UZA while the mechanic provided guidance on the manual gear extension process. The calls repeatedly dropped; however, the final call began at 1913 and dropped at 1926 after the pilot stated, “I gotta add some power.”

The airplane impacted a wooded area about 4 nautical miles south of UZA. The airplane came to rest in an upright, nose-down attitude oriented on a true heading of 297°. All major components of the airplane were located at the accident site. 

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane’s nose was impact crushed upward and aft and the nose and cockpit area were fragmented. The fuselage was fractured aft of the wing roots and displaced upward. The empennage, with the stabilator and rudder intact, was fractured about 2 ft aft of the baggage door and deformed over the top of the fuselage and was found resting on the right wing.

The right wing was accordion-crushed aft and fractured about 9 ft from its root with the outer wing section laying on top of the inboard section. The right engine compartment and engine were intact; however, the propeller was impact separated from the engine at the crankshaft flange and mostly buried in the soil. Examination of the propeller revealed leading edge damage, twisting and chordwise scratches. The main landing gear remained attached to the wing and was noted in the “down and locked” position.

The left wing leading edge was impact damaged. The engine compartment and engine remained intact with the propeller attached to the crankshaft flange. Examination of the propeller revealed leading edge damage, twisting and chordwise scratches. The left main landing gear was noted in the “down and locked” position with its fractured oleo tube deformed aft at the fractured area. There was odor consistent with aviation fuel at the accident site.

The wreckage was recovered for further examination. 

Flight control continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit area.

The stabilator and rudder trims were neutral, and the flaps were in the retracted position. 

Fuel was found within the gascolator bowls, engine driven fuel pumps, fuel lines, and fuel servos. Recovered fuel tested negative for water contamination.

Both engines were rotated via the crankshaft flange and thumb compressions, valve action, and crankshaft continuity were confirmed. 

All magnetos were impulse coupled and sparked at all towers.

All spark plugs remained installed and displayed normal coloration when compared to the Champion AV-27 chart except for the right engine bottom No.1 spark plug which was impact destroyed. 

Oil was found in various oil lines throughout the engines and rocker covers.

The oil filters were opened and found to have minor carbon, ferrous, and non-ferrous material.

Examination of both engines did not reveal any preimpact anomalies or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.

A portable GPS, a multi-function display unit, and the green landing light bulb were retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N8924Y
Model/Series: PA30 C
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: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: UZA,669 ft msl
Observation Time: 18:54 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 4 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 9°C /2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 50°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.3 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: LaGrange, GA (LGC)
Destination: Rock Hill, SC (UZA)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 34.922803,-81.049551 

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.

Robert Anthony Prestininzi
Fort Mill, South Carolina
June 1, 1972 - November 5, 2021

Rob was born June 1, 1972 in Lakeland, Florida and he passed from this life November 5, 2021 in Rock Hill, SC. He was 49 years old, and he packed more “life” into those 49 years than many who live double that number of years.

Rob graduated from Gibson County High School (Dyer, TN). He received a Bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master’s degree from Mississippi State.

Rob served as a Deputy Sheriff with Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department in Murfreesboro, TN. During his tenure, he served as a patrol deputy officer, a drug investigator, and a detective. After leaving law enforcement, he went into residential home building. He moved into the financial markets serving as a Vice-President of Investigations with LPL Financial and then became a loan originator with Guild Mortgage. In 2020, Rob fulfilled a life-long dream when he became a flight instructor. Rob was an avid runner, completing over fifteen 100 mile runs.

Rob is survived by: His wife Briana, His two sons; Slater (10) and Kai (1 month). His Parents Cindy & Mike Prestininzi (Dyer TN), Brother Philip (Cassie) Prestininzi (Dyer, TN), Sister Jamie (Justin) Carr (Dyer, TN). Three nieces and three nephews. Extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins and more friends than you could possibly count.

Rob was also an avid “smiler”. Anyone blessed with the privilege of spending time with Rob will attest that seeing his smile made it impossible not to smile with him. You were left feeling like you had just been with someone who thought you were the most important person in the world.

Celebration of Life 11-20-2021 11am @ the Field Trail Barn at the Anne Springs Close Greenway: 195 Adventure Road, Fort Mill Celebration in Tennessee 12-4-2021 11am-3pm Rutherford County Sportsmen’s Club @ 1231 Medical Center Parkway, Murfreesboro, TN

In Rob’s youth he spent a lot of time with his great-grandparents, Charles and Elsie Slater. These great-grandparents had such a profound impact on Rob’s life that he named his first son after them. Although Rob’s firstborn, Slater Cruz, never met them, Rob made sure a part of them would live on in his son… and because he was that kind of person… a lot of Rob will live on too.

Robert Prestininzi

A Fort Mill pilot killed in a Rock Hill plane crash was a flight instructor for a Charlotte school that did business at the Rock Hill/York County airport, officials said. 

Robert Prestininzi, 49, was the pilot and sole occupant of a small plane that crashed nose-first in woods near Heckle Boulevard in southern Rock Hill around 7:30 p.m. Friday, according to the York County Coroner and National Transportation Safety Board.

The airport is in northern Rock Hill near S.C. 161.

The cause of the crash is unclear. No structures or people were hit on the ground, The Herald previously reported.

Prestininzi had been a flight instructor at FlyCarolina Flight School since 2020, the company said on Facebook. The company is based in Charlotte and has schools at airports in Rock Hill, and Monroe and Concord in N.C., according to the company.

Prestininzi was returning on a flight to Rock Hill, according to FlyCarolina. He had been teaching at Rock Hill for more than a year.

“He was well liked and respected by students and staff alike. He will be missed,” the company said. “Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

FlyCarolina Operations Manager Chris Sanchez confirmed to The Herald on Monday Prestininzi was a flight instructor, but declined further comment.

FlyCarolina is listed as a flight school on the Rock Hill/York County Airport website.

Officials have not said if the flight Prestininzi was on when the crash happened was personal or business.


The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told The Herald Monday. 

The plane’s flight track, analyzed by the NTSB, showed it circled the Rock Hill area before the crash, Knudson said.

The Piper PA-30 twin engine aircraft was on its way to the Rock Hill airport from an airport in LaGrange, Ga., according to Knudson and a Federal Aviation Administration statement.

LaGrange is southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama state line.

On-site investigators are expected to finish field work Monday, Knudson said, and a preliminary report could be available within two weeks. A full report on the crash could take a year or more, he said.


Prestininzi worked for a Charlotte mortgage company and had been in financial services in the Charlotte and Fort Mill area for about 15 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Prestininzi had been a deputy for six years through 2001 at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The staff at the sheriff’s office near Nashville are heart-broken to hear of the death of someone who still is remembered and loved in the law enforcement community, said spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni.

Prestinizi, known as Rob, rose through the sheriff’s office ranks from patrol deputy to drug investigator and detective, said Capt. Chris Haynes of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was one of the most driven and hardest workers I have ever worked with in my life,” Haynes told The Herald Monday in a statement. “He always had the most positive outlook on everything in life and the way he could talk to people was what set him apart. You could be a millionaire or a bum on the street and Rob could carry on a conversation with you and leave you a better person for just having talked to him. Heaven gained a great person.”

Prestininzi was also an avid runner who was a longtime member of the Rock Hill Striders running club, a club member posted on Facebook.

Funeral arrangements have not been released.


  1. Circling because gear wouldn't extend, or impaired/disoriented?

    1. I wonder if he was attempting to find that private airport in the last minute or so. Im assuming he would be generally familiar with its location.

  2. The flight track for the last few minutes of this flight is quite unusual.

  3. Strange … circled at a fairly low altitude for about 50 minutes.

  4. The pilot & owner of the accident aircraft was a rated MEI with zero experience in any Twin Comanche let alone the 1969 Turbo C Model C/R he was flying. He had purchased the aircraft through a buyer's representative and immediately taken the airplane to an avionics firm to update several of the radios. He picked up the airplane and made his first stop to pick up the aircraft logbooks commenting that he had just completed his very first flight in a Twin Comanche. From there he traveled south around weather and when he refueled, he called a mechanic to ask how the fuel system operated. He was advised not to complete the trip and was even offered a ride home but decided to continue the ill-fated flight. When his landing gear failed to extend, he used his cell phone to contact a mechanic for instructions on how to manually extend the landing gear but he could not find the landing gear extension tube mounted along side the PA30 gear transmission. The mechanic even sent him a picture on his cell phone of the part he should be looking for.

    1. It's remarkable that the pilot did not familiarize himself with the location and operation of the emergency gear release on a plane he was new to. No pumping required, just find the red release lever and one pull drops the gear.

    2. Not quite … those videos are done with the plane on jacks at zero airspeed. Airborne with airspeed there is resistance on the nose gear and the gear will only extend partially. The red handle is then inserted into one port and moved forward then the other port to continue forward to the locked position. At high airspeeds it will not work hence the book recommendation of 100mph or less.

    3. Difference at speed makes sense. All the more reason to read the AFM/POH and verify the red plug-in handle is present and that you know how to insert and use it.

      PDF pages 46, 45 show original pages 47, 48:

    4. @the person who posted those videos. Both videos are from idiots who are demonstrating how to damage the gear letting it slam down like that. It does not work like that in the air, the gear extension lever is needed to manually push the gear down like a Mooney.

    5. Those videos make you wonder if the on-the-phone mechanic's experience did not include understanding that the leverage of the plug-in gear extension tube/lever was required while in flight.

    6. I would argue that the videos were not made by idiots … probably non pilot mechanics. A brief comment was made that the book had you do a few other items. Understatement.

      What they did is required on the annual and allowing the gear to free fall like that does not hurt the gear/plane.

      Stated above it sounded like the mechanic had the guy on the correct track and looking for the extension handle.

    7. Is it suspected he ran out of fuel during this? (Ive heard there was no post crash fire), or is it suspected he lost control of the aircraft while being distracted trying to find emergency gear extension?

    8. Unfortunate that there was not advice given to proceed to making a gear-up landing as soon as it was determined that the plug-in gear extension tube/lever could not be found.

      The long period of maneuvering with climbs and descents included suggests that there was a belief that the gear could come down by itself in spite of the force from airspeed on the nose gear.

    9. My experience doing manual extensions in PA-30's is to slow down to approx. 100 MPH, unlock the transmission, insert the tube/lever in the visible socket, push forward, this will get the wheels out of the wheel wells, then put the tube/lever in the next socket, bank the aircraft about 30 degrees, left or right and then back pressure on the yoke to tighten the turn push on the tube/lever a bit and the landing gear will fall and lock. No problem at all.

    10. ^ Correct! My thoughts are that a comprehensive Pre-flight check list would cover the ext. handle? Yes/No?? Thoughts and prayers to pilot’s friends and family!

  5. OK … so the low altitude was probably for cell phone reception. Bad news.

    1. Cell reception shouldn't be a factor in that altitude profile.

      Pilot came off his max MSL of 3,500 on the accident leg way before when he would have run into difficulty extending gear for Rock Hill/York County airport KUZA approach.

      Also, pilot maxed out at 1,900 MSL on the first leg that day:

      Odd to see a rated multi-engine pilot traveling low altitude in an unfamiliar aircraft. Not much glide range or time available for resolving issues at low AGL if power delivery faltered into single engine flight or if both were lost.

    2. Low altitude was more likely to stay under the shelf of the Charlotte Class Bravo, which is 3600 MSL in that sector.

  6. Robert was an Instructor and valued team member at the Rock Hill location. Since earning his Certified Flight Instructor certificate in early 2020 he had been teaching at Rock Hill. He was well liked and respected by students and staff alike. He will be missed. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  7. Robert was a great instructor, a great person and a great friend. I will miss flying with him. This a tragic loss for the Charlotte aviation community. I will miss him a lot.

  8. Condolences to family and friends. Yet again, aviation in general is very unforgiving to poor decision making. How could anyone think that any of this was a good idea?

  9. The aircraft was just registered by the FAA on 08/09/2021. Also, It it was registered as a restricted category aircraft for aerial surveying.
    Here's his info:


    Airman opted-out of releasing address

    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: First Medical Date: 5/2021
    BasicMed Course Date: None BasicMed CMEC Date: None


    Certificates Description
    Certificate: COMMERCIAL PILOT
    Date of Issue: 9/25/2019



  10. Such a needless tragedy, condolences to friends and family.
    If the gear is manually extended at 100 MPH or less, as directed in the instructions on the back of the gear extension access panel, a properly rigged gear will literally fall into place and be securely extended. Being at the proper speed is the key.

  11. Robert was a great friend and one of the best people to fly with. I can't remember the man without a smile on his face. He will be missed dearly. Still a bit in disbelief..

  12. I had many hours sharing a plane with Robert. He was a great pilot and an even better friend. He always was so excited to be in the air with the people he knew, whether it was for scratching another "local" airport off his list or for trekking out to the coast for a $100 shrimp platter. He is and will be missed. We lost a good one.

  13. makes no sense....why not just execute a gear up landing..?

    1. It appears that the pilot simply delayed committing to a gear-up landing a bit too long while trying to resolve the gear problem.

      It is important to understand that the crash was not a turn stall while orbiting to troubleshoot. The final track shows breaking away from orbiting near Falls Landing/55SC to head toward KUZA but the airplane quit flying without reaching KUZA for whatever reason.

      Orbiting near Falls Landing Airport 55SC may have been a conscious choice of the pilot with the expectation of being able to reach the field even with one or both engines going out from fuel depletion.

      Falling light at the unlighted 2400' turf runway may have become an unforeseen critical hole in the cheese when troubleshooting extended into a long duration. The breakaway from orbiting near 55SC was at 7:20 PM EDT.

  14. Hey, I don't fly, I don't fly commercially or privately but the number of "Flight Instructors" who hit the turf is, to say the least, Alarming!

    1. Well, CFIs do log a lot of hours and generally fly in all conditions. Also (not a factor in this case) but they often fly with students that DO try to kill them if they aren't carefu.

  15. Being an ex Comanche owner operator, My GUESS is failure of landing gear extension which caused the occupants to be distracted from aviating the A/C. Most likely a stall spin in close approximation to the ground.When they 'let go', it happens fast....

  16. Preliminary report stated that the green landing light bulb was retained for further examination. That would be the single bulb that indicates gear down, which can be examined to determine if the filament was hot/lit or not at impact.


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