Plane & Pilot
Friday, October 1, 2004

The Silent Killer

The NTSB’s latest safety recommendation targets the dangers of carbon monoxide leaks caused by defective exhaust systems

According to the air-traffic-control records, at 11:17, the pilot radioed New York ATC, advised the controller that he was 4 ½ miles north of FRG at 3,000 feet and requested flight following. The flight then proceeded uneventfully for the next 25 minutes.

At 11:39, the controller radioed the pilot and instructed him to contact the Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), but there was no response. At 11:41, the private-pilot-rated passenger transmitted that they were in trouble and that the pilot wasn’t responding. The controller instructed her to do a shallow left turn southbound and told her that he would talk her down to an airport. He also advised her to descend if she could and to stay clear of the clouds.

The passenger advised the controller that she could see the ground while making the turn and that the pilot was throwing up. The controller informed the passenger that she was over the Danbury Airport in Danbury, Conn. During the next 16 minutes, the controller and the pilot of another airplane provided directions and instructions to the passenger.

At 11:56, the passenger radioed that she was getting tired and that she was nauseated. The pilot of the other aircraft asked the passenger to lower the nose of the airplane and to start descending, and the passenger responded that she was trying to “activate” the pilot. The pilot of the other aircraft told the passenger where the control wheel was and directed her on how to trim the airplane.

At 12:04, the controller advised the pilot of the other aircraft that the Piper had turned northbound and that it was slowly climbing. The controller said that the passenger was responding with transponder idents.

Three minutes later, the controller advised the pilot of the other airplane that the Piper was at 8,200 feet and that there were no further idents. At 12:09, he noted that the airplane was holding its heading and altitude of 8,800 feet. Then, the controller radioed the passenger and told her to open a vent on the airplane and get some fresh air, as there might be CO in the cockpit. He also announced that maybe the autopilot was on, making it difficult to descend. The transmissions weren’t acknowledged.

At 1:13, the pilot of the other aircraft reported that he had the airplane in sight. Shortly thereafter, he noticed that there was no one who was sitting up, the entire cabin was full of smoke and there was smoke coming out of the engine.

Ten minutes later, the pilot reported that the airplane was descending rapidly. At 1:26, he reported that the Piper had crashed into trees.


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