NTSB releases preliminary report of deadly East Haven plane crash


The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report of the deadly plane crash in East Haven last month.

Authorities said 31-year-old student pilot Pablo Campos Iona died, and his instructor, 20-year-old Rafayel Hany Wassef, of New London, was "seriously injured" after a Piper PA 38 aircraft crashed near Tweed New Haven Airport on Feb. 22.

The report states "after three uneventful landings," one of the pilots declared an emergency and stated "mayday" during that initial climb. The reports says that pilot did not state the emergency.

Another pilot told NTSB that they "heard the emergency transmission and could hear the airplane's stall warning horn in the background during the transmission."

"There was radio communication with the tower, a mayday. The plane was on the takeoff phase, so it was climbing, so it was a mayday. Somebody heard on the radio a stall warning. A stall warning call is a sound that we hear when the aircraft is in a configuration that makes it unstable and ready not to fly," said local aviation expert Michael Teiger.

He said two things could cause this, saying "it can be an engine problem where there's not enough power, but more likely the plane was in an elevated pitch, where instead of going at a certain configuration of climb, it would be too much. When you do that, despite full power, you would lose the ability to fly and lose the ability to stay up in the air."

The plane, which was operated by American Flight Academy, went down around 10 a.m. near Roses Farm Road. When authorities found the aircraft, the engine was partially buried in mud, but the two propeller blades "did not exhibit rotational damage."

NTSB officials said there was "no flight plan" filed for the local flight.

Teiger said the majority of the information in the report is routine, but there are things about the final flight that stand out as unusual.

"It was a clear day, clouds were 7,500 feet, well above the aircraft and it was clear and there was calm winds, so this was a good practice day to fly,” Teiger said.

Teiger has been a pilot for more than 30 years and is a flight instructor.

He said the reason the plane went down is still a mystery.

"There could have been a mechanical failure, the control surfaces may have been locked somehow and that could speak to aircraft maintenance, there could have been a physical problem in the plane, pilot losing physical capabilities to control the plane, if that were the case of the student you would think that the instructor would be able to take over, so why this happened precisely, is really not clear to me,” Teiger said.

It was an instructional flight and the student pilot had about 17 hours of flight experience including 15 hours on the same make and model, according to NTSB.

NTSB officials said the aircraft involved in the crash was manufactured in 1978. The aircraft had accumulated about 8,473 total hours of operation and the engine had accumulated 2,508 hours since major overhaul, the report stated.

Teiger also says the age and miles on a plane are typically, nonfactors in its performance.

“I am noticing the plane had 2500 hours of flight time before the previous overhaul, that's a little bit stretching the usefulness of an engine before it gets a major overhaul, and this particular plane which is a PA-38, the recommendation 1200 hours,” Teiger said.

The report also stated that the instructor "held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane."

To read the full report, click here.

It could take six months before the final report is completed.

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