When On A 2-Mile Final Approach To The Runway, The Instructor Issued A “Mayday” Transmission

Location: Lindenhurst, NY Accident Number: ERA23FA137
Date & Time: March 5, 2023, 14:59 Local Registration: N8149R
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional

On March 5, 2023, at 1459 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N8149R, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident in Lindenhurst, New York. The flight instructor and one passenger were seriously injured, and the second passenger was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight. According to preliminary air traffic control radar flight track and communication data, and statements to law enforcement and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the “discovery flight” was a gift from one passenger to her mother.

Track data indicated that the airplane departed runway 32 at Republic Airport (FRG), Farmingdale, New York, about 1419. The airplane completed a right turn toward the southeast after departure, crossed the coastline, and proceeded over the Atlantic Ocean. The airplane completed numerous left, right, and 360° turns, then returned toward FRG. While maneuvering, the airplane’s maximum altitude was about 2,000 ft mean sea level (msl).

The airplane was on an approximate 3-mile final approach to runway 32 when the flight instructor reported smoke in the cockpit to the tower controller and requested an immediate landing. The controller instructed the airplane to continue straight-in for the runway. The instructor acknowledged the transmission and advised the controller that he was “turning off” the radios. When on a 2-mile final approach to the runway, the instructor issued a “mayday” transmission and the airplane turned left. The controller reissued the landing clearance and observed smoke emanating from the left side of the airplane as it descended rapidly from view.

Doorbell and surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the accident site recorded the airplane at low altitude and a shallow descent angle as it entered trees, shed sheet metal and major structure, ignited spilled fuel, impacted terrain, and rotated 180°, where it came to rest upright, engulfed in flames. The engine sound was smooth and continuous until ground contact. Emergency vehicles awaiting the arrival of the airplane at FRG departed the airport property in search of the accident airplane after the crash. The flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument airplane. He held a flight instructor certificate with a rating for airplane single engine. His most recent FAA 3rd class medical certificate was issued on August 15, 2019. The instructor’s pilot logbook was found in the wreckage, mostly destroyed by fire. Employment and dispatch records revealed that he had accrued an estimated 330.5 total hours of flight experience.

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1980 and was powered by a Lycoming O-320-D3G, 160-horsepower engine. The airplane’s most recent 100-hour inspection was completed January 4, 2023, at 18,866 total aircraft hours and a tachometer time of 3,655.7 hours. Review of the airplane’s maintenance logbooks revealed an entry dated January 16, 2023, at a tachometer time of 3,657.3 hours, which stated, “Pilot reports smoke in cockpit during flight on
01/07/2023. After troubleshooting, flown and tested. Aircraft returned to service with no smoke.” The most recent entry before the accident was a 50-hour inspection completed on February 27, 2023, at a tachometer time of 3,701.8 hours.

The wreckage was examined at the accident site, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was about 470 ft long and oriented about 300°. The initial impact point was in a tree about 60 ft above the ground. Sheet metal, a section of aileron, wingtip fairing, position lights, and angularly-cut branches were scattered along the wreckage path.

Approximately 350 ft down the wreckage path, two trailered boats were destroyed by burning fuel that spilled from the airplane as it passed overhead. The main wreckage came to rest in a right-of-way between a commercial property and a railroad bed. The fence that bordered the property extended approximately parallel to the airplane’s flight path and was damaged by impact and fire. The left wing, with main landing gear attached, came to rest about 50 ft prior to the main wreckage and was damaged by impact and fire. Concave dents perpendicular with the leading edge were consistent with the dimensions of fractured tree branches.

The engine cowling rested against a tree trunk abeam the separated left wing. The engine cowling displayed no evidence of pre- or post-crash fire on its inside or outside surfaces. The tree trunk displayed a slash mark consistent with propeller blade contact. The main wreckage came to rest upright facing approximately opposite the direction of travel. The engine was exposed and was severely damaged by fire. The windscreen, instrument panel, cockpit, cabin area, roof and the empennage were completely consumed by post-crash fire.

Seat frames and flight control cables were completely exposed. The right wing was attached, damaged by impact and fire, and displaced 90° aft about mid-span. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit flight controls to all flight control surfaces. Continuity to the left wing was established through breaks at the wing root, which displayed signatures consistent with overload failure.

The engine was attached to the airframe and the propeller was attached to the crankshaft. The engine exhibited extensive thermal damage and some impact damage. It was cut from the airframe, removed from the site, and examined. The propeller was removed, and the engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange of the crankshaft. Continuity was established through the powertrain to the valvetrain to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The right magneto would not rotate; disassembly revealed that it was destroyed by fire. The left magneto’s impulse coupling snapped when rotated and produced a visible spark at the points when the cover was removed.

The carburetor was damaged by impact and fire, but the throttle and mixture cables remained attached. The inlet screen was unobstructed, but the floats were melted and destroyed by fire. The engine-driven fuel pump displayed undamaged diaphragms and pumped fuel when actuated by hand.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov