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Pilot error blamed for 2014 fatal plane crash

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Posted at 7:35 AM, Dec 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-11 07:35:46-05

The National Transportation Safety says a fatal plane crash last year in Wellington was caused by pilot error.

The crash occurred Feb. 17, 2014 after the plane took off from the Wellington Aero Club. 

A report issued Friday concluded that the pilot, Leonard W. McGarity Jr., 58, failed to "maintain adequate airspeed following a partial loss of engine power” while the plane climbed.  

This caused the plane to stall and eventually crash into a lake.

The report also said McGarity Jr. did not properly repair a stripped spark plug hole, causing the partial loss of engine power.

More of the NTSB report below:

The airplane had just departed the airport; one witness reported that during the initial climb the engine “sputtered,” and another reported that it “backfired.” The pilot then made a steep turn back toward the airport, but the airplane stalled and spiraled to the ground.

The NTSB said data revealed that initially the engine was operating normally and within design parameters.

However, toward the end of the recorded data, the No. 1 cylinder head and exhaust gas temperatures had begun to decrease while the other cylinder temperature parameters remained fairly constant.

The engine data then recorded a decrease in engine rpm followed by a steep 180-degree turn toward the airport.

A witness who assisted the pilot with the airplane’s oil change two days earlier stated that the pilot had cross-threaded a spark plug in the No. 1 cylinder and attempted a helicoil repair.

During examination after the accident, the No. 1 sparkplug was easily removed by hand. This was likely the cause of the power loss that preceded the pilot’s attempt to return to the airport.

The pilot’s steep, 180-degree turn exceeded the airplane’s critical angle of attack, which resulted in a stall at low altitude and collision with terrain.

A review of the pilot’s toxicology revealed that even though he tested positive for antidepressants, they were not a factor in the accident.