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Contact with plane lost 40 minutes after takeoff, report says

May 17, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board states that radar contact with a plane that crashed last month in Montgomery Township was lost 40 minutes after the pilot took off from Frederick (Md.) Municipal Airport, but does not indicate what might have caused the fatal accident.

David K. Weiss, 72, of Bethesda, Md., was killed in the April 25 accident when the Cessna 172L crashed into Cross Mountain, according to the report. The wreckage was found five days later by Weiss' two sons, who had joined Civil Air Patrol volunteers in the search.

Weiss took off from Montgomery County Airport in Gaithersburg, Md., at 12:10 p.m. April 25 and landed in Frederick 30 minutes later. At 1:17 p.m., the plane took off on a northwesterly course, according to the NTSB.

After crossing the border into Pennsylvania, the plane "turned left and re-entered Maryland, before making a right turn north into Pennsylvania. The last radar contact at 1357 (1:57 p.m.), indicated the plane was on a southwest heading, at 2,300 feet, between two converging mountain ridges in an area known locally as 'The Punchbowl,'" the report states.

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At the time, the skies were clear and winds were light, according to the NTSB.

The wreckage was found at an altitude of 950 feet, about halfway up the northeast face of Cross Mountain, the report states. The debris field was about 100 feet long, beginning with wreckage found in a tree about 80 feet above the ground.

Weiss died of multiple blunt-force trauma, Franklin County Corner Jeffrey R. Conner said May 1. The pathologist who performed the autopsy found no medical cause that would have contributed to the crash, he said.

"All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident scene," the report stated. Except for some broken cables consistent with the crash, "control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces," according to the report.

The plane was owned by the Congressional Flying Club and log records showed another pilot had flown the plane for about an hour earlier on April 25. That pilot then put 22.3 gallons of fuel in the plane, the report states.

Weiss was an experienced, instrument-rated pilot with 1,380 hours of flight time, according to the NTSB. The plane he was flying, though built in 1970, had undergone a 50-hour inspection April 1.

The plane had a total of 5,041 hours of flying time and had 446 hours of operation since its last major overhaul.

The search for Weiss attracted hundreds of volunteers. The Civil Air Patrol had 35 planes combing the region and more than 400 people on the ground, according to Capt. Steven Solomon, a spokesman for the patrol's Maryland Wing.

Paul Cox, a senior air safety investigator for NTSB, said at a May 1 press conference that a factual report on the crash will take about four to six months to complete and will be followed by a final report four to six months later.

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