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Pilot error caused 2010 Naperville plane crash: NTSB

Updated: October 9, 2012 2:30AM



A local pilot’s failure to abort his takeoff has been cited by the National Transportation Safety Board as the probable cause of a crash two years ago in which a single-engine airplane smashed into a health and fitness club in far west-central Naperville.

Improper annual inspection of the aircraft and a hole in the plane’s exhaust pipe were contributing factors in the Oct. 6, 2010 crash of the 33-year-old, Piper PA-32R-300 into the XSport Fitness center near 75th Street and Route 59, NTSB investigators said.

NTSB officials published their conclusions Thursday in a “probable cause” report on the crash that seriously injured pilot Lloyd McKee, 66, and his wife, Maureen McKee. They live in the unincorporated Aero Estates subdivision, which lies east of Route 59 between 79th and 83rd streets and about 100 yards due south of XSport Fitness. The McKees were flying to Pittsburgh at the time of the crash.

Neither the probable cause report nor a 12-page, NTSB “factual report” published in July identified Lloyd McKee by name. The factual report indicated McKee was interviewed in November 2010 by Federal Aviation Administration inspectors.

McKee told inspectors winds were from the west on the day of the flight, and that there was a direct crosswind as he began to taxi down the runway. He said he did not believe there was a tailwind.

“When asked if there were any ‘out of the ordinary observations’” of his power settings, airspeeds, manifold pressure and engine speed settings, McKee replied “all appeared normal,” according to the report. He said he knew “the airplane’s load was lighter than normal and was in limits,” and that all appeared to be well as he reached the runway’s midpoint.

“I did not hear anything out of the ordinary,” the report quoted McKee as saying. “I rotated the aircraft at the end of the runway at the stall warning, (and) the aircraft didn’t seem to want to climb. I tried to gain altitude so I could turn the airplane, but I couldn’t.”

McKee “was then asked if he had completed a runway performance calculation prior to takeoff,” the report stated. McKee at that point “responded by saying that he would not answer any more questions until he had an attorney.”

According to the probable cause report, an examination of the engine after the crash showed a detached fuel servo air inlet coupling that would have perturbed or restricted airflow to the fuel servo, which resulted in the reduced engine power.

Officials also found a preexisting hole in an exhaust pipe near the fuel servo that would have allowed hot exhaust gases to flow into the fuel servo air inlet, resulting in reduced engine power, that report indicated.

The aircraft underwent an annual inspection “performed by the airplane’s owner and two mechanics, with inspection authorizations three flight hours before the accident flight,” the report stated. The inspection “should have identified the detached coupling and the hole in the exhaust pipe.”

NTSB investigators concluded the probable cause of the crash to be McKee’s “failure to abort the takeoff when he realized the airplane was not attaining sufficient takeoff and climb performance.”

“Contributing to the accident was the airplane’s partial loss of engine power due to an obstruction of the fuel servo air inlet by the intake duct coupling and ingestion of exhaust gases from a preexisting hole in the exhaust pipe. Also contributing to the accident was the improper annual inspection of the airplane by the owner and two mechanics.”

The crash did no severe structural damage to XSport Fitness, and the patrons and employees who were inside the club at the time escaped injury.

Aero Estates was developed in 1955. No aviation-related fatalities have ever occurred there.



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