Pre-purchase flight ends with crash

Aircraft: Socata TB 10. Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: Shirley, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The flight was a pre-purchase demonstration of the airplane. The buyer intended to examine and photograph the maintenance records, then fly the airplane around the airport traffic pattern with the owner. However, the owner insisted they fly the airplane before reviewing the maintenance records.

Upon starting the airplane, the owner announced that he had just been informed by the mechanic that the tachometer was inoperative, but continued to taxi to the runway.

Witnesses who watched the departure described the takeoff roll as “slow” and “anemic” and stated that the airplane used almost the entire length of the runway to become airborne. The airplane climbed slowly to treetop height in a nose-high attitude and disappeared from view. Moments later, a large smoke plume appeared out of the trees a short distance beyond the airport boundary.

A witness who was standing on his back porch facing northeast, about 1.5 miles from the airport, said the airplane appeared above the trees at the back border of his property, flying directly toward him, and that the sound of the engine was very loud. The airplane descended over his backyard and below the height of his one-story house in a 30° left bank. The airplane then pitched up, climbed over the house, then hit a tree and a construction dumpster in front of the house and burst into flames.

The mechanic stated that the whereabouts of the maintenance records were unknown, but he provided a handwritten list of discrepancies he found and work he performed on the airplane, including three hours disassembling and cleaning of the carburetor.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the mixture control cable was disconnected from the carburetor mixture control arm. The cable displayed a light coating of soot, with no damage or fraying of the cable. The cable grip hardware on the mixture control arm was also undamaged, and the cable grip hole was completely open and unobstructed by the cable grip hardware, indicating that the cable had been removed from the arm and had not been reattached before the flight.

Investigators determined that although the owner and mechanic had represented the airplane to the buyer as airworthy with a completed annual inspection, they knew this was not the case, as the tachometer was inoperative.

Further, it was learned that during a test flight three days before the accident, the engine would not produce full power. The pilot complained of the lack of engine power to the mechanic, but the mechanic stated he did nothing to troubleshoot the discrepancy because of the inoperative tachometer and further stated that he had not “signed off” the annual inspection in the maintenance records.

Probable cause: The owner’s operation of the airplane with known deficiencies, and the mechanic’s failure to reattach the mixture control cable to the mixture control arm following maintenance of the carburetor.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA514

This August 2012 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. T Ibach says

    Goes to show that whenever buying or renting an aircraft, best to look at maintenance records FIRST…be insistent….

  2. Paul J says

    I am very sorry to hear of the loss of life. This is the worst part of this report. The 2nd is
    there will be a large lawsuit, & this is bad for all of aviation. The cost of flying is going
    up all the time & we do not need such supposed negligence as this adding to the problem.

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