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NTSB: Third of NY small plane crashes due to loss of control

Two people were killed and a third injured

Two people were killed and a third injured Feb. 26, 2017, when a small plane crashed at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. Credit: News 12 Long Island

A review of the causes of recent small-plane crashes in New York State — including a cluster of seven early last year on Long Island — attributed one-third to pilot loss of control, a federal safety agency said Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that it examined 156 aviation accidents in the state over the past five years at the request of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The review found that nothing set those accidents apart from those in general aviation, the agency said.

“For those accident investigations that have been completed, the causes have been similar to the cause of general aviation [small-plane] accidents that we have investigated overall,” the NTSB said in a letter to Schumer dated March 23.

About one-third of the crashes in New York and overall were caused by pilot loss of control in the air and on the ground, which can be triggered by weather, loss of pilot awareness or other reasons, the NTSB said. Other causes include loss of engine power, controlled flight into terrain and hard landings, which all also are common in general aviation accidents, the letter said.

Earlier this month Schumer had called on the NTSB to investigate, noting that 10 of the state’s 18 small-plane crashes last year had ties to Long Island.

Schumer’s request came about a week after a vintage single-engine plane took off from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale and crashed near Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach while practicing touch-and-go landings.

The pilot and a passenger were killed and another passenger was injured.

On Feb. 19, a single-engine Piper PA-28 that also took off from Republic lost power and crashed into a residential area of Bayonne, New Jersey. The pilot suffered minor injuries.

The NTSB said in its letter to Schumer that it would host a safety seminar on Long Island later this year. The agency did not indicate a date or location for the seminar.

“We consider Long Island a suitable venue for this safety seminar because a number of general aviation accidents have occurred in that area, and because we believe the robust general aviation community there will be receptive to our safety outreach,” the agency wrote.

The cluster of seven plane crashes and other aircraft accidents between Jan. 27 and May 3 of last year on Long Island was the most the area has seen in one year since 2012, when there were eight the entire year.

There were 11 in 2010, the most in any year since at least 2000, according to the NTSB database.

Although some local aviators expressed concern, general aviation safety experts and advocates said at the time that the cluster was most likely an anomaly.

“From time to time there are mishaps and accidents that happen in clusters, and I think human nature wants to derive some meaning from that,” George Perry, a safety expert with the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said after his agency also noted the Long Island cluster last year.


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