NTSB: Pilot in fatal crash in Shirley knew of problems

The crash of this single-engine plane Aug. 19 The crash of this single-engine plane Aug. 19 into a residential neighborhood in Shirley killed two of the three people aboard, authorities said, and the lone survivor is critically injured. (Aug. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A pilot who flew knowing his plane had a faulty tachometer and a mechanic's "failure to reattach the craft's carburetor mixture control cable" likely caused a fatal Shirley crash last August, the National Transportation Safety Board has reported in its final probable cause report on the crash.

Pilot David J. McElroy of Orient, who was killed along with one of his passengers, and mechanic John DiLavore "represented" to potential buyer Erik Unhjem that the Socata TB10 was airworthy when it wasn't and had a completed annual inspection, the NTSB reported in an Aug. 13 report.

In addition to the craft's inoperable tachometer -- an instrument that measures engine revolutions -- the plane had a lack of engine power during a test flight three days before the crash, the NTSB reported.

DiLavore told investigators he never "signed off" on the inspection, the NTSB report said. And he didn't restore the plane to service because the tachometer needed to be replaced and the part had been ordered, previous NTSB records show.

Efforts to reach DiLavore for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

"I'm sorry that I got connected with this guy," Erik Unhjem, 62, said of McElroy in an interview. "I will be less trusting in buying a [new] plane and everything else in life."

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Unhjem, whose wife, Jane, 60, died of her injuries, said he agreed with the NTSB report.

Family members of McElroy, 53, declined to comment.

An examination of the wreckage revealed that the control cable was disconnected from the carburetor, and investigators found that there were indications the control cable had been removed but not reattached before the flight, the NTSB reported.

The plane slammed into trees shortly after taking off from Brookhaven Calabro Airport on Aug. 19, 2012.

Erik Unhjem, then 61, of Goshen, was critically injured.

The flight was a pre-purchase demonstration for the Unhjems, but Erik Unhjem wanted to examine and photograph the plane's maintenance logs before taking off, the NTSB reported.

Instead, McElroy insisted they first fly the airplane, NTSB officials said. Upon starting the plane, Erik Unhjem told NTSB investigators, McElroy told him that DiLavore had just informed him of the faulty tachometer. But the pilot continued taxiing to the runway, the NTSB said.

Unhjem also told investigators that before takeoff, he had left his camera tripod on a table next to the logbooks. After the crash, inspectors found the tripod in the bed of McElroy's truck. The maintenance logbooks weren't recovered, officials said.

DiLavore told NTSB investigators that he gave McElroy those documents before the flight to make copies, records show.

The investigators later questioned DiLavore about the logbooks because he was the last person to possess them, NTSB said.

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