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Report offers details of Clifton Park plane crash

Report offers details of Clifton Park plane crash

A new report on the August 2012 plane crash that killed two local businessmen offers more details on
Report offers details of Clifton Park plane crash
A state police investigator takes measurements near the fuselage of a single-engine plane that crashed in the front yard of a home on Van Vranken Road in Clifton Park that killed two area business executives on Aug. 15, 2012.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

A new report on the August 2012 plane crash that killed two local businessmen offers more details on the crash, including noting a corroded engine part and the unusual position of a particular switch in the cockpit.

No probable cause is cited in the report, dubbed the “factual report,” and the corroded engine part and switch information is included in a larger four-page narrative on the Aug. 15, 2012, crash in Clifton Park.

A probable cause isn’t expected until at least August, with the release of the final report on the crash.

The entire National Transportation Safety Board report outlines the investigation into the plane crash that killed Walter Uccellini, 67, of Albany, and James Quinn, 68, of Westerlo. Uccellini died at the scene, Quinn died of his injuries later.

Both were executives with The United Group. Quinn was the company’s vice chairman; Uccellini, the company’s chairman.

The two were killed after the 1981 single-engine Beechcraft A36TC they were in crashed after takeoff from the Albany International Airport. The plane struck trees and a front lawn off Van Vranken Road in Clifton Park. The two men had been en route to a business meeting in Plattsburgh.

As included in the initial preliminary report, the pilot advised air traffic control just after takeoff “eight delta romeo just lost our engine,” with radar contact lost 30 seconds later.

The factual report, which was posted online Friday, details tests on the aircraft’s engine after it was recovered and sent to the manufacturer.

After replacing some parts damaged in the crash, including fuel system fittings, the engine started normally on the first attempt, according to the report. The engine was also tested at different speeds and at full power.

“The engine performed normally throughout each of the tests without any hesitation, stumbling, or interruption of power,” the report reads, “however, testing of the magnetos showed that the right magneto was inoperative.”

A magneto provides power to the engine’s spark plugs, according to online sources. Airplane engines usually have two, as the Beechcraft did. The engines can run on one, but the second one provides a backup.

According to the report, the Beechcraft’s right magneto was examined and corrosion was discovered on the points. Once that corrosion was cleaned, the magneto operated normally.

Under “additional information” in the report, the NTSB notes the airframe manufacturer’s instructions for what pilots should do if power is lost immediately after lift-off. The directions also came with a warning, the report notes. The only reasons the auxiliary fuel pump should be on high is to prime the engine or if the primary pump fails. Having the primary pump working and the auxiliary on high at the same time could result in the engine quitting for running too rich, depending on the throttle, temperature and altitude.

Earlier in the report, the NTSB notes the auxiliary fuel pump switch was found in the “high” position, “though the structure surrounding the switch was deformed consistent with impact.”

The report does not appear to specifically address the state of the main fuel pump, except a notation that an examination of the fuel system showed the system remained continuous, “with no breaches or obstructions noted.”

Both Quinn and Uccellini were licensed pilots. The initial preliminary report referred to both as pilots of the aircraft.

The factual report, though, specifically identifies Quinn as the pilot and Uccellini as the passenger. Neither are referred to by name in the report, but information given in the report for the pilot matches that of Quinn.

Quinn had logged 11,008 total hours of flight experience, with 1,110 in that type of aircraft, the report reads. Quinn also had flown 143 hours in the previous 90 days. Uccellini held a pilot certificate, but hadn’t flown much in the recent past.

The plane was owned by a friend of Quinn, who allowed Quinn to use it whenever he needed. The plane was manufactured in 1981. The factory-rebuilt engine was installed in 1996. The last annual inspection prior to the accident was completed in October 2011, 10 months before the crash.

The airframe had 3,364 total flight hours, while the engine had 1,773 total flight hours since installation.

The plane did not have a formal flight data recorder and wasn’t required to have one, the report reads. But it did have a hand-held GPS receiver, which recorded location, altitude and speed. The plane reached a maximum altitude of 1,115 feet.

The report also notes that upon takeoff at Albany International Airport, the tower advised Quinn of a three-minute delay due to wake turbulence from the departure of a Boeing 737. Quinn then requested to waive the delay and was given takeoff clearance about a minute later. Winds at the time were calm, with visibility at 10 miles.

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