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Report: Plane’s takeoff flawed

Witnesses give NTSB insight into crash that killed 3

Thursday, June 25, 2009
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Recovery crews hoist the Piper Cherokee plane from the Mohawk River on June 15.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Recovery crews hoist the Piper Cherokee plane from the Mohawk River on June 15.

— The single-engine plane that carried a Rexford man, his young son and an Amsterdam physician to their deaths last week barely got off the ground and came back down twice as it tried to take off June 14, a witness told federal investigators.

With runway at the Mohawk Valley Airport quickly running out, the plane got off the ground for a third time.

Another witness, waiting to take up skydivers, watched the takeoff after seeing the plane make two approaches.

“He kind of ran out of runway. He lifted off barely above the weeds at the end of the runway and began to sink in the air toward the river,” the witness told investigators.

“He pulled the nose up sharply, stalled the aircraft and the tail slid into the river,” the witness said.

The comments were included in a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report released Wednesday.

View report

To view the NTSB report, click HERE

Investigators also found no evidence of pre-crash mechanical failure or malfunction, the report reads.

The flaps were found retracted, “not in the partially extended position for a short-field takeoff,” the report reads. The landing gear was also extended.

Also included was an account on the state of the engine. The recovered engine was found to be mechanically fine. Dried out, the engine started up and ran continuously without hesitation, the report reads.

Killed were St. Mary’s Hospital physician Krishnan Raghavan, 52, local hotel owner Mathai Kolath George, 42, and George’s 11-year-old son George M. Kolath Jr. Autopsies showed they drowned.

An NTSB official said the report is only a statement of information. Final determinations won’t come for as long as a year.

The report includes a recounting of flying experience for both Raghavan, a certified flight instructor, and George, a student pilot.

Raghavan received his commercial pilot’s certificate in April 2005 and his flight instructor certificate in October 2008.

George was Raghavan’s first student since Raghavan obtained his instructor certificate. George flew 5.5 hours with Raghavan in the previous 30 days and 25 hours in the previous 90 days.

Their first flight together was Dec. 13.

George had a student’s license. His logbook indicated 134 total flight hours, 85.4 hours in the Piper-Cherokee that crashed.

George had just over 17 hours as the pilot in command, 10.2 of those in the Piper-Cherokee.

The report did not make a determination on who was in command when the plane crashed.

The plane itself was pulled from the water the morning after the crash. Engine components were removed, allowed to dry and reinstalled.

The engine was started by investigators, warmed up, advanced to full power and ran continuously without hesitation, according to the report.

 
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