Schenectady County

NTSB report gives details on Glenville plane crash

The replica P-51 Mustang aircraft cleared the runway, but its climb was slow.

The replica P-51 Mustang aircraft cleared the runway, but its climb was slow.

With Saratoga Springs pilot Charlie Hudson at the controls, the plane used about 600 feet of runway as it took off from the Schenectady County Airport, but climbed only 200 feet over the next three-quarters of a mile.

The plane was angled upward, so much so that a witness reported it looked near stalling.

A left turn followed and Hudson reported losing power. Cleared to land on any runway, Hudson didn’t make it. The plane crashed in a stand of trees just off Route 50.

The information is included in a preliminary report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board on the Sept. 23 crash that led to the death of Hudson, a veteran pilot and father of two sons. Hudson, 42, died four days after the crash.

The NTSB report provides several new details, including a problem with a spark plug two days prior to the crash.

The report also reveals that the initial takeoff was caught on video, with the sound of the crash on the tape’s audio track. The videographer turned the camera away after announcing trouble with the ascent, missing the crash.

The audio track caught an engine sound that was smooth and continuous until the sound of impact.

The plane has been described as home-built. It’s registered to Northeastern Aero Classics in Glenmont.

No cause has been determined for the crash, federal officials said Wednesday. That is not expected until a final report due out in nine months to a year.

The plane was relatively new. The replica World War II fighter aircraft had logged 10 total “aircraft hours” by February and had an estimated 16 total hours at the time of the crash. An NTSB official Wednesday described “aircraft hours” as time in the air.

The plane had a Chevrolet 350 cubic inch engine. The report identifies several parts of the engine that appeared to be in working order. Fuel was in the output line to the carburetor. The throttle linkage was intact, the throttle plates opened and closed fully.

The wooden propeller blades were broken in a way suggesting they were still turning at impact.

Other parts, like wiring, were destroyed by the fire that followed the crash.

The owner told investigators he purchased the plane, but felt he lacked enough experience with that type of plane to test fly it. He then contacted another pilot, who was not available, but that pilot recommended Hudson.

Hudson held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine airplanes and gliders, according to the report. His most recent medical certificate was issued in December 2005, reporting 440 hours of flight experience.

Hudson reviewed operating notes from the prior owner of the plane.

In high-speed taxi tests Sept. 21, Hudson reported engine vibrations and misfiring. Troubleshooting led to a bad spark plug, which was replaced.

On the day of the accident, Hudson resumed testing and determined the engine was operating smoothly. He requested takeoff clearance.

On takeoff, the plane accelerated briefly on the ground and lifted off, which was caught on video.

The tower controller described seeing a left turn before Hudson reported losing power. Hudson was cleared to land on any runway, before the plane entered a “teardrop” turn aiming for a runway, but hitting the stand of trees instead.

It was just after 3 p.m. Arriving firefighters from the Air National Guard and Thomas Corners fire departments cut Hudson from the wreckage. He was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital, where he died Sept. 27.

Hudson, known as a generous man who volunteered with a program introducing children to flying, was married for more than 18 years to his wife, Caroline. They had two sons, Colby and Drew.

Categories: Schenectady County

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