SCHOHARIE COUNTY — A plane that crashed shortly after takeoff last year, killing a Major League Baseball official and two others, was over its maximum allowable gross weight at the time, according to a new National Transportation Safety Board report.
The report also cites air conditions at the Schoharie County airport as contributing to the accident.
No probable cause was included in the report, which was filed online late last week. Such a determination could come in the final report, which may come by the end of the year.
The small Piper PA-28 aircraft, with four people aboard, crashed into a wooded, swampy area about 6:45 p.m. July 16, 2016. All three passengers died. The pilot survived but suffered severe injuries.
The plane was en route from the private Hogan Airport near the Schoharie County hamlet of Sloansville, town of Esperance, to Tweed-New Haven Airport in Connecticut.
Those killed were Andrew M. “Mike” Mydlarz, 50, and his wife, Susanne Hilgefort, 48, both of Stamford, Connecticut, and Lisa Marie Quinn, 48, of New York City.
Hilgefort served as MLB’s senior director of broadcasting and business affairs and was one of the league’s longest-serving employees, the league said. Her husband was an optician, according to their obituaries.
Jason Klein, owner of Connecticut-based Force 3 Pro Gear, a baseball equipment company, piloted the aircraft and survived. Klein continues to recover, more than 16 months later, a Force 3 company spokeswoman said this week.
NTSB investigators did not interview Klein, due to his injuries, the new report reads. Instead, he submitted a written statement in which he indicated he has no memory of the incident.
The report also ruled out drugs or alcohol as factors, noting test results from samples taken from the pilot.
The four people aboard the plane were in Esperance to attend a gathering of family and friends near the airfield, sheriff’s officials have said. Several of those remaining at the gathering saw the plane gain altitude and then descend into the trees.
They made their way to the crash site and found one man outside the plane with burns to his face and hands trying to help the others still in the wreckage, officials have said.
The NTSB estimated the takeoff weight of the aircraft, including fuel and passengers, to be about 66 pounds over the maximum allowable gross weight. They estimated the takeoff weight as 2,816.5 pounds; the maximum is 2,750 pounds.
At the maximum weight, the “estimated takeoff ground roll” is 2,180 feet, the report states. The plane got off the ground in about 1,500 feet, based on surveillance footage cited in the report.
The report also highlights the air density at the Schoharie County airport. The report says an FAA pamphlet and pilot handbook warn that air densities at higher altitudes require increased takeoff distances and cause reduced rates of climb, among other complications.
Witnesses described the takeoff as slow and sluggish. Another reported the plane as under full power the entire time. The engine did not fail, according to witnesses.
The report confirms an examination of the engine showed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical problems.
Another issue cited by the report is that the “flap control handle” was found set at 10 degrees. The plane’s handbook did not include performance charts or procedures for 10-degree flaps during takeoff.
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