Single Engine Cessna 172 Crashes in Southern Ontario

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A single engine Cessna 172 similar to the one that crashed in Moorefield. Photo Credit: D. Miller

Witnesses saw a single engine Cessna 172 in uncontrolled flight on Friday night in a field in Moorefield, southwest Ontario, Canada.

Llori Nicholls, one of the witnesses, reported the airplane’s last horrific moments before it dived into the field to The Canadian Press.

She said,

It was doing these spirals but really high up in the air.” The witness also told the paper that after a while the plane looked like “it had lost control and it was going down.”

The Canadian Press also reports that Curtis Bults, another witness to the crash, informed the investigators that there was no smoke, which could have been hard to make out in the night as the airplane crash took place at about 8:30 pm, Eastern time.

Plane Crash Decoded

The significant facts that we know regarding this unfortunate event, are as follows:

  • The aircraft was out of control before it crashed.
  • There were no severe weather conditions.
  • Some witnesses heard the sound of engine starting, just before the crash.
  • The plane belonged to a flight school.
  • Witnesses report that the aircraft was spinning.
  • There was no smoke, according to a witness’s statement.

Interpreting Crash Accounts

When there is no smoke associated with an airplane crash, it generally means that the plane was out of fuel. However, since there was only one statement regarding the absence of smoke, and given that the air crash took place at night, it’s possible that this is not the case for this crash.

An aircraft that is spiraling out of control necessarily is either stalled, or in a speeding nose-down dive. Cessna – 172 is a highly stable aircraft that does not stall very easily, so it’s unlikely that the crash was due to a stall.

The sound of engine restarting, heard by the witnesses on ground, could point out to an engine failure of the Cessna 172, but the aircraft itself is designed to glide in such an event, and does not plummet to the ground like a fighter jet would do under similar circumstances, so engine failure doesn’t appear to be a plausible cause.

What Caused the Plane Crash?

A problem with the throttle, (the throttle governs the amount of air/fuel mix that goes to the engine, and thereby controls the level of power available to the plane for forward motion) such as a stuck throttle, or throttle-link failure, appears to be the most likely cause. A throttle issue, resulting in a speeding nose-down dive, followed by an engine failure, could result in the situation reported by witnesses, but until the formal reports of the investigators are out, all we can do is speculate.

In the interim, my thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the deceased.

Resources:

CTV News. Drifting, spinning, plunging: Witnesses recall fatal plane crash. (2012). Accessed: August 26, 2012.

The Canadian Press. Moorefield plane crash: Teen among four dead. (2012). Accessed: August 26, 2012.

Postmedia News. Four dead in plane crash northwest of Kitchener. (2012). Accessed: August 26, 2012.

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