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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 13334
Last updated: 20 November 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic P28R model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Piper PA-28R
Owner/operator:Berkshire Avia
Registration: N5291T
MSN: 28R7235218
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Gilford, Nh -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:KLCI
Destination airport:Great Barringtn,Mass
recovery date 6/3/73. Flew into mtn slope.

Late morning June 18, 1972. A 2300 hour instructor. In those days that didn't get you near the cockpit of an airliner which were filled with ex-military. You needed a lot more hours. The CFI's father was an airline captain and the CFI was still accruing hours. Passionate about aviation. The student was in his early 30's with 20 hours. Flew sporadically with an instructor. Flew whatever was available. No one felt he was particularly committed to learning to fly. He just liked to go flying. The Piper Archer 180 was only a year old. N5291T. On the flight line at KGBR - Great Barrington, MA in the flight school.
The student showed up randomly and just wanted to go flying. The flight plan was worked up by the CFI. No cell phones, much poorer forecasting in those days. You called a local Flight Service Office. The bulk of the trip in those days was class G airspace and radar coverage was poor to non-existent. You could file a flight plans - but VFR flight following did not exist as a service.
Weather was sunny with overcast moving in. Cloud lowering through the Sunday when the accident happened. East to North East Wind. In fact flying into the beginnings of Hurricane Agnes - though that had not been defined at that point. Flight KGBR in Massachusetts to KCLI in New Hampshire and return. As near as can be figured as no flight was plan filed.
The plane departed KLCI for the return leg after fueling. 10:05 departure. There were over 50 witnesses to departure. Laconia was much busier in those days. But no one actually spoke to the CFI or student. But the plane was seen to depart. The conditions were deteriorating but still very much VFR. Ceiling was 5,500 overcast. The mountain top was 2,356ft. Plane didn't show up at KGBR.
No one knew where to start looking. The Civil Air Patrol picked the two highest areas enroute. The Belcamp mountain that overlooks Laconia airport and the mountains around Keene. The aircraft had an ELT but it couldn't be detected. (It was burned up in the post crash fire).
During the search around Keene a Cessna 182 with the remains of its pilot were found. It had been missing for 6 years.
The search was abandoned on June 29th and the story died with the 4th July holiday. The flight school and locals continued some sporadic searching around the hills of Great Barrington in MA for a few more days.
A little digging. It turned out the student had been in and out of hospital with mental problems. Prior to this flight he had been involved in an aircraft theft but not convicted. That lead to speculation it was a hijack for suicide. it was just 9 months after the DB Cooper hijack and planes were being hijacked all over the place. Some also wondered if it was an escape to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft.
The plane was found 51 weeks later on June 3, 1973. In late May some locals out on the road at the bottom of the mountain spotted something glimmering in the trees. That weekend they climbed the mountain to try and find what it was that was flashing on the mountainside. They couldn't - though there dog did come back with a bone which was thought to be from a deer. (It was subsequently found to be the femur from one of the victims). The glinting could still be seen through the week and they tried again the following weekend. They found the vertical stab hanging from a branch twisting in the wind and causing flashes of light across the valley. They also found the rest of the plane.
The FAA determined it was clearly CFIT under normal power and that the victims were probably killed instantly in the crash.
Plane is on a right crosswind (the airport is actually left traffic) from 08 at KLCI and 130ft below the summit. Just below the MANNED fire tower. Had gone unnoticed. There are at least two other known wrecks on the same mountain where the performance of the granite exceeded the performance of the aircraft to climb over it.
One comment about CFIT from the trip. Most CFIT are within 300ft of a summit the pilot was trying to get over or that caught them unexpectedly



Additional Narrative - On site FAA WINGS Safety Briefing at accident site

Revision history:

25-Feb-2008 12:00 ASN archive Added
11-Jun-2017 14:51 graemesmith Updated [Departure airport, Source, Narrative, Photo, ]
11-Jun-2017 14:52 graemesmith Updated [Phase, Nature, Source]
20-Sep-2020 15:07 richjak Updated [Narrative]

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