A single engine plane crashed shortly after take- off at Linden Airport, in New Jersey, killing the flight instructor and critically inuring the student pilot. The flight had taken off at approximately 1 p.m. on Friday, May 31, 2013, and crashed shortly afterwards, into a stretch of railroad tracks located close to the airport. Linden Airport is a small airport several miles south of Newark International Airport and is the site of numerous training flights. The plane was a single engine Diamond, equipped with dual controls. The doomed plane was registered in Denville, New Jersey, and operated by Best in Flight, a flight training company. The flight instructor was identified as Craig McCallum, 58 years old who was removed via ambulance from the crash site, and transported to Robert Woods Johnson University Hospital where he was declared dead. The student pilot was listed in critical condition at the same hospital and expected to survive. The initial investigation revealed that the plane exhibited difficulties immediately upon take-off and barely reached the level of nearby housetops, before it sputtered and crashed nose-first. It was not clear whether the student pilot or the flight instructor was piloting this plane. However, this type of aircraft is equipped with dual flight controls so that the flight instructor can pilot the plane at any time during flight. The National Safety and Transportation Board (“NTSB”) were on the scene following the accident and were conducting an investigation of the cause of this crash.
According to New York aviation accident attorney, Jonathan C. Reiter, who has handled many aviation cases, including commercial airline crashes and small airplane crashes, this incident could have several causes, which are currently being investigated. Mr. Reiter stated as follows: “The NTSB” is mandated under federal aviation law to thoroughly investigate the cause of all aviation accidents within the United States. It is possible that several causes may be at issue in causing this accident. It is likely that, since the plane was used for flight instruction and was equipped with dual flight controls that the flight instructor was piloting the plane, as is typical situation with a student pilot. It is also possible that the plane suffered some sort of mechanical failure, since it had immediate problems in its ascent, and crashed almost immediately upon take-off. The instructor is responsible for all pre-flight safety checks, and if these are not done correctly, it can lead to a mechanical failure. There may also be issues involving contamination of the fuel and/or fuel lines with water or other foreign substances. Failure of the flight instructor to properly check the fuel lines before take-off can lead to catastrophic engine failure due to water contamination in the carburetor and fuel lines. This precise scenario occurred in another student pilot/instructor accident that I prosecuted that took place at Macarthur Airport in Long Island, New York on June 5, 2010 in which a single engine Beechcraft B19 crashed due to fuel contamination. In the weeks to come, the “NTSB” will conduct its investigation and issue a report that will conclude with the cause or causes of this accident”. Mr. Reiter stated further: “While it may never be known with absolute certainty it may be assumed that since the plane had dual controls, that is, controls on both the pilot and the passenger’s side of the plane, that the instructor would have control of the plane at all times, and certainly at a time of an emergency. The NTSB will certainly address this crucial issue in its final accident report of this crash.”