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Report fails to explain cause of plane crash

Officials investigate the scene where a plane crashed

Officials investigate the scene where a plane crashed in the woods in Leverett, Mass. (Dec. 5, 2010) Photo Credit: Daily Hampshire Gazette

The initial National Transportation Safety Board report on a Dec. 5 Massachusetts crash of a single-engine aircraft that claimed the lives of two Long Islanders found no mechanical problems that would explain the Cessna's loss of power before impact.

The NTSB is continuing to examine the engine.

The report released Wednesday indicated the engine components and fuel system appeared to be in working order. But the report noted "the airplane's . . . belly was observed with engine oil streaking to the lower tail section."

"It's most likely the oil," commented one aviation expert, John Goglia, a former NTSB board member and aircraft mechanic. He said an oil leak that was not detected by the pilot probably caused the engine to seize and stop.

The report also noted that a bolt that secured the alternator belt adjustment brace to the engine was missing and the alternator belt was loose. But aviation experts said a loose belt would not cause a loss of power when the engine was already running. "I don't see how it would" bring down the plane, said another expert, Steve Wallace, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration accident investigation office and a commercial pilot.

"I can't really draw any conclusions from this," Wallace said of the report. He predicted the explanation for the crash will come when a team from the safety board, FAA and the manufacturer tears down the engine to examine its interior components and issue another report.

The engine, which had been inspected Oct. 25, stopped producing power two minutes after the pilot noticed engine trouble. The plane glided to a field in Leverett but its landing gear snagged a power line, causing the plane to flip and crash upside down.

Front-seat passenger Robert Lothrop, 62, of Stony Brook, was killed. He was an employee of William Schley, 37, chief executive of Airborne Maintenance Inc., a repair shop based at Long Island MacArthur Airport that owned the aircraft. Schley died of his injuries a week after the crash.

The report said Schley had been in the right seat of the first row until the engine acted up and then had switched seats with Lothrop, a commercial pilot who was sitting behind him so Lothrop could help diagnose the problem.

Also injured were Longwood Middle School teacher Dayna DiCamillo, 33, of Miller Place, who is recuperating at home, and pilot Matthew Wilding of Stony Brook, who was released from the hospital several days after the accident.

The plane had left Keene, N.H., and was a half-hour into a trip back to MacArthur.

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