Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board today determined that the probable cause of a small airplane crash in Manhattan last October was the pilots' inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship in the performance of a 180-degree turn maneuver inside of a limited turning space.
On October 11, 2006, a Cirrus Design SR-20, N929CD, operated as a personal flight, crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan, New York City, while attempting a 180-degree turn maneuver above the East River. The two pilots on board the airplane were killed, including the owner of the aircraft, Cory Lidle of the New York Yankees. The second occupant was a commercial pilot with a flight instructor certificate. Three people on the ground were injured, and the airplane was destroyed.
"This accident is a great tragedy in which a pleasure flight went horribly wrong and ultimately cost the lives to two young men," said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker. "The pilots placed themselves in a precarious situation that could have been prevented by better judgment and planning."
In its final report, the Board stated that there were no system, structural or engine malfunctions found. The pilot/owner was properly certificated to fly the accident airplane. The pilot-rated passenger was also a certified flight instructor and qualified to have flown the accident flight.
Due to the complex accident forces involved in the crash sequence, the Board's report states that it is not possible to determine who was manipulating the controls at the time of the accident. Also, due to the lack of a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, it was not possible to determine who was the pilot in control during the accident flight or if flight instruction was being given.
The Board stated that the pilots did not aggressively bank the airplane throughout the turn nor did they use the full available width of the river. Radar data indicate that the airplane was in the middle of the East Channel at the start of the 180-degree turn as opposed to beginning the turn from the eastern shoreline. In addition, wind out of the east would have effectively shortened the available distance to successfully make the turn.
In the report, it states that investigators could not determine whether the pilots were aware of the wind's effect on the execution of the 180-degree turn. It is believed that they should have been able to observe the difference in the ground track and heading during the flight to determine that there was a prevailing wind from the east and compensate for westward drift.
Finally, the Board found that the pilots should have recognized, during preflight planning or while they were considering flying up the East River after they were already in flight, that there was limited turning space in the East River exclusion area and they would need to maximize the lateral distance available for turning.
As a result of it's investigation, the Safety Board made the following recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration:
Permanently prohibit visual flight rules flight operations involving fixed-wing, nonamphibious aircraft in the New York East River class B exclusion area unless those operations are authorized and being controlled by air traffic control.
A synopsis of the Board's report including the probable cause and recommendation, is available on the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov, under "Board Meetings." The Board's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.