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NTSB: Pilot who died in crash of Republic-bound plane struggled to start engines

A Cessna 303 aircraft crashed into a house

A Cessna 303 aircraft crashed into a house on South Smith Road in Union Vale. The plane took off from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, headed to Sky Acres Airport in LaGrangeville, according to the FAA. Credit: Spectrum News/@MercedesTVnews

The pilot of a Republic Airport-bound plane that crashed last month, killing him and a man inside a Hudson Valley home, struggled to start the aircraft before it took off and plunged to the ground, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Francisco Knipping-Diaz, 61, of Woodmere, the pilot of the twin-engine Cessna T303, died in the Aug. 17 crash when the plane hit a home in Union Vale after taking off from Sky Acres Airport in nearby LaGrangeville. 

Gerard Bocker, 61, and inside the home when the Cessna burst into flames after hitting the residence, also was killed, authorities said. The plane’s two passengers, Eduardo Tio, 50, also of Woodmere, and Teoflio Antonio Diaz Pratt, 52, of the Dominican Republic, were injured but survived. 

Surveillance video at Sky Acres Airport captured the pilot making several failed attempts to start the plane's engines after landing to refuel. The plane eventually took off carrying 100 gallons of fuel en route to Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, the NTSB's preliminary report said.

The five-page report is preliminary and did not identify a cause of the crash.

It was based on interviews with both passengers on the plane and others on the ground, including a person who sustained minor injuries, the report said.

Before landing at Sky Acres Airport in Dutchess County, the plane had taken off from Orange County Airport in upstate Montgomery, the report said. Earlier in the day the plane left Republic Airport for Montgomery where the pilot had a meeting, the report said.

The plane took off from Sky Acres and remained at low altitude before veering to the left over grass next to the runway, the report said. The pilot steered the plane straight, though still over the grass, and eventually cleared the runway before crashing into the home, the report said.

“Shortly after liftoff, at an altitude of 50-100 feet, both engines lost partial power,” the report said. “They did not stop completely. They sounded as though they were ‘not getting full RPM,’ and they began ‘studdering,’ which continued until impact with the house.”

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