NTSB prelim report on Cape Air crash names no cause
The National Transportation Safety Board yesterday released a preliminary report on the fatal crash of a Cape Air flight that took the life of pilot David D. Willey of Vineyard Haven, on Friday evening, September 26.
The report outlines the details of the accident, but points to no immediate cause of the crash that occurred shortly after the Cape Air twin engine Cessna 402 aircraft, with no passengers on board and piloted by Mr. Willey, took off from Martha's Vineyard Airport in rainy, overcast conditions.
Mr. Willey, 61, an experienced pilot who had flown in and out of airports around the world in far more difficult circumstances, was on a repositioning flight to Boston's Logan Airport, where he was scheduled to pick up passengers for a return flight to the Vineyard later that night. His plane crashed into the woods opposite Nip-N-Tuck Farm, on State Road in West Tisbury.
The plane narrowly missed one house on Nip and Tuck Lane, clipped the roof of another, and ploughed a trench through the woods before coming to rest against a tree.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety.
The preliminary NTSB report notes that it contains preliminary infor- mation that is subject to change and may contain errors that will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
According to the NTSB report, the Cape Air flight was cleared for takeoff by a Martha's Vineyard air traffic control tower controller at 7:50 pm.
"After takeoff, the airplane was instructed to climb to an altitude of 4,000 feet, and make a right turn to a heading of 360 degrees," said the report. "The instructions were acknowledged by the pilot; however, there were no further communications from the airplane. Radar data showed the airplane climbing at an altitude of 400 feet, and a ground speed of 120 knots shortly after takeoff. The airplane made a slight left turn, before entering a right turn which continued until radar contact was lost at an altitude of 700 feet, and a ground speed of 160 knots."
The report quotes a witness near the accident site who reported hearing the sound of a low flying airplane and described the engine noise as "very loud, like the airplane was at full-throttle." He said he then heard a loud crashing sound.
An examination conducted in an airport hanger of both engines and propellers did not reveal evidence of any catastrophic failures.
The report said Mr. Willey's most recent medical certificate was issued on September 16, 2008. According to company records, he had accumulated approximately 16,746 hours of total flight experience, which included 2,330 hours in the same make and model as the accident airplane.
A weather report at the time described light winds at 5 knots, visibility of 5 statute miles with light rain and mist.
A Cessna 402 operated by Cape Air, destined for Providence, Rhode Island departed from a nearby runway approximately one minute after the accident flight. "The pilot of that flight did not report any unusual weather during his initial climb and described the turbulence below 1,000 feet as 'light,'" said the report.
Generally, a preliminary accident report is available online within a few days of an accident. Factual information is added when available, and when the investigation is complete, the preliminary report is replaced with a final description of the accident and its probable cause.
Yesterday, Cape Air spokesperson Leslie Duda told The Martha's Vineyard Times, "We continue to participate in and support the NTSB investigation."