CLEVELAND — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on last month's New York plane crash that claimed the lives of two Northeast Ohio men.
The single-engine aircraft went down in Westchester County on Jan. 19 just minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The two victims, pilot Baruch Taub and passenger Binyamin Chafetz, had been bound for Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights after attending a funeral in New York City.
The NTSB's initial findings do not yet point to a specific cause, but do shed some more light on the moments leading up to the fatal accident and the aftermath. The first signs of trouble apparently came roughly 15 minutes after the plane departed JFK, with Taub reporting "poor flight performance" and a "dead cylinder" from the engine of the Beechcraft A36. At that time, Taub did not declare a flight emergency (despite being asked) and saw nothing wrong on the aircraft's instruments, but did request permission to made an unscheduled landing at nearby Westchester County Airport in White Plains.
Moments later, however, Taub did indeed declare an emergency, saying his oil pressure was dropping and that he couldn't "see anything out here." The NTSB confirmed weather had put sight visibility at about one mile during that late afternoon, roughly the minimum of the standard set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Air Traffic Control gave Taub permission to land at the airport around 5:27 p.m., but less than a minute later, radar contact was lost. Crews later found the wreckage — along with the bodies of both Taub and Chafetz — in a New York City-owned water supply area less than two miles short of the runway, with investigators saying the plane hit several trees before coming to a rest.
In their report, NTSB crews noted "fresh oil" on the bottom of the aircraft as well as the engine's crankcase breather line, with a hole also found on the latter engine vent pipe in line with one of the cylinders. There were also fractures and deformities on one of the connecting rods, but with the plane itself sustaining "substantial" damage, it cannot yet be confirmed if any of these issues came before or after the moment of impact.
The Beechcraft was owned and operated by T&G Flying Club in Cleveland, which has had a history of sometimes fatal accidents across the last decade. Officials connected with the business have either declined or not responded to interview requests from 3News in recent weeks.
The NTSB says it is still examining the engine, along with a pilot monitor, several electronic devices, and flight instruments. Investigator In Charge Timothy Monville will head up the probe.
You can read the board's entire first report below: