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Still a mystery

Loss of power to engine blamed for fatal Clifton Park plane crash

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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Still a mystery


A state police investigator takes measurements near the fuselage of a single-engine plane that crashed in the front yard of a home on Van Vranken Road in Clifton Park that killed two area business executives on Aug. 15, 2012.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
A state police investigator takes measurements near the fuselage of a single-engine plane that crashed in the front yard of a home on Van Vranken Road in Clifton Park that killed two area business executives on Aug. 15, 2012.

— The August 2012 plane crash in Clifton Park that killed two local businessmen was caused by a “total loss of engine power,” a final National Transportation Safety Board report concludes.

But what caused the loss of power could not be determined because of damage to the plane from the crash.

The crash killed Walter Uccellini, 67, of Albany, and James Quinn, 68, of Westerlo. Uccellini died at the scene, while Quinn died of his injuries later.

For more information

The final National Transportation Safety Board report on the August 2012 Clifton Park plane crash that killed two area business executives can be found at www.ntsb.gov.

Both were executives with The United Group. Uccellini was the company’s chairman, and Quinn was the company’s vice chairman.

The NTSB report cites previously released details about a corroded engine part that could have resulted in partial loss of power and the possible pre-crash position of a crucial switch in the cockpit.

That switch, an auxiliary fuel pump switch, could cause the engine to quit if put in the wrong position.

But the report reads, “Due to the extent of the damage surrounding the auxiliary fuel pump switch, its pre-impact position could not be determined.”

The two men were killed after the 1981 single-engine Beechcraft A36TC they were in crashed after takeoff from Albany International Airport. The plane struck trees and a front lawn off of Van Vranken Road in Clifton Park on Aug. 15, 2012. The two men were en route to a business meeting in Plattsburgh.

The first indication of engine power loss came from the pilot just after takeoff, according to previous reports. The pilot, Quinn, advised air traffic control that “eight delta romeo just lost our engine.” Radar contact was lost 30 seconds later.

The probable cause report, posted online Monday, discusses the corroded engine part, called a magneto, saying it “could result in a partial loss of engine power and/or perceived rough engine operation.”

A magneto provides power to the engine’s spark plugs, according to online sources. Airplane engines usually have two, as the Beechcraft did. The engines can run on one, but the second one provides a backup.

After replacing some parts damaged in the crash, the engine started normally on the first attempt, according to the previous report. The engine was also tested at different speeds and at full power.

According to the previous report, the Beechcraft’s right magneto had corrosion on the points. Once that corrosion was cleaned, the magneto operated normally.

The final report also notes the airframe manufacturer’s directions for dealing with a loss of engine power immediately after takeoff. The auxiliary fuel pump switch should only be in the high position “in the event of an engine-driven fuel pump failure.”

But the position of that switch couldn’t be determined.

Regarding the fuel or fuel systems, the NTSB found no deficiencies.

Both Quinn and Uccellini were licensed pilots.

Quinn had logged 11,008 total hours of flight experience, with 1,110 in that type of aircraft, the previous report stated. Quinn also had flown 143 hours in the previous 90 days. Uccellini held a pilot certificate but hadn’t flown much in the recent past.

The plane was owned by a friend of Quinn’s, who allowed Quinn to use it whenever he needed. The factory-rebuilt engine was installed in 1996. The last annual inspection prior to the accident was completed in October 2011, 10 months before the crash.

The airframe had 3,364 total flight hours, while the engine had 1,773 total flight hours since installation.

 
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