Monday, February 22, 2016

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, N631PT: Fatal accident occurred February 24, 1977 in Bressler, Swatara Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania

Nine people died in 1977 PennDOT plane crash, vintage photos

The wreckage of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation airplane is stored inside a hangar at Capital City Airport. The plane crashed on Feb. 24, 1977, into a house in Bressler killing a woman inside the house and all eight people aboard the plane.

Around 9:24 a.m. on Feb. 24, 1977, the Bressler area of Swatara Township saw something it hopes to never see again.

A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Piper Cheyenne crashed into a home and ignited a fireball of flames, killing all eight people on the airplane and a woman in her home on High Street.

According to The Patriot-News archives the airplane had taken off 15 minutes earlier from Capital City Airport headed to Elk County to present a check for $25,000 to the Area Transportation Authority of North Central Pennsylvania for use in buying two buses to provide transit service in two counties.

Beverly Geary was in the kitchen of her home when the airplane hit it.

The other eight people killed were:

State Transportation Secretary William Sherlock, 36, of Camp Hill

State GOP Chairman Richard C. Frame, 50, of Franklin

Sherlock's Chief of Staff William R. Smith, 59, of Hershey

PennDOT Public Relations Officer Charles Wilson, 55, of Hershey

PennDOT photographer Larry G. Pennsyl, 38, of Elysburg

PennDOT data processing manager John W. Krebs, 36, of New Cumberland RD

PennDOT Bureau of Aviation chief pilot David M. Wolf, 35, of Carlisle

PennDOT Bureau of Aviation co-pilot Edward Soisson, 46, of New Cumberland

A National Transportation Safety Board report issued in January 1978 said "the probable cause of the accident was the flightcrew's failure to insure that the aircraft was loaded properly and that it's center of gravity was within certificated limits. As a result, the aircraft's control characteristics were degraded significantly by a center of gravity well aft of the certificated limits. This imbalance led to the pilot's inability to control a longitudinally unstable aircraft during a climbing turn in instrument meteorological conditions."

Later in the report, the NTSB noted that when carrying eight occupants "the front baggage compartment must be loaded to bring the center of gravity" to the proper measurement. The heaviest passengers also were to be seated toward the front. While the NTSB said there was no baggage loaded in the front, it could not determine where each passenger was located. The NTSB said that the passengers usually sat in the same seats and that arrangement did not put the heaviest passengers in the front but rather "placed the heaviest loads in the back."

"The flightcrew did not follow recommended procedures for aircraft loading with 8 passengers on board," the NTSB found.

The NTSB found that the first point of contact was 15 feet above the ground on a 23-foot tree. About 20 feet after the tree, the airplane struck the street. The airplane slid through the house and burst into flames then hit a car and truck, crossed another street and came to rest in a driveway next to a utility pole.

"The aircraft broke up extensively," the NTSB wrote.

The NTSB found there was no evidence of engine failure or malfunction, the flight crew was "properly certified" and the pilots had no medical or psychological problems.

"The accident was not survivable" according to the NTSB.

Original article can be found here:

National Transportation Safety Board Accident Report:

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