Plane crashes in Great Valley

Firefighters douse the flames from a plane crash April 7 at the Great Valley Airport.

GREAT VALLEY — Federal investigators reported that mechanical failure was likely not the cause of a plane crash that claimed the life of a Brockport man earlier this month.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board this week looked at mechanical and eyewitness evidence surrounding the April 7 crash of a single-engine Cessna 177B at Great Valley Airport, as well as giving a narrative of the short flight.

“Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of pre accident mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation,” the report stated, but did not indicate a suspected cause of the crash.

While the NTSB does not identify pilots by name in reports, it indicated the pilot was the owner of the aircraft, whom Federal Aviation Administration records identify as Raymond E. Groetsch, 72, of Brockport. Killed in the crash was William H. Mandelare, 80, of Brockport, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office reported.

According to the FAA’s public Airman Inquiry database, Groetsch received his current private pilot license in May 2009, and was certified as an airframe and powerplant mechanic at the same time.

Investigators said that the two men had flown to Great Valley from Brockport earlier in the day and met another pilot for lunch. After lunch, the other pilot took off without incident. Another pilot told investigators that the weather conditions made for “an absolute perfect day to fly.” The aircraft flown by Groetsch then began takeoff at around 2:08 p.m.

A witness across the street from the runway heard the second plane throttle up for its takeoff, and by the time the plane was visible, he said the plane was in a 90-degree bank — with the wings of the airplane perpendicular to the ground.

Another witness saw the plane take off, noting it bounced several times on takeoff. It then rose about 20 feet above the ground before rolling over to its left side, with the left wing striking the ground as the plane fell.

The airplane departed runway 24 (an approximate 3,800-foot-long by 90-foot-wide turf runway). Marks on the ground corroborated with the witnesses, indicating the plane likely struck the ground with its left wing low and the nose down.

The airplane came to rest about 2,250 feet down and about 50 feet left of the approach end of the runway. The left and right wings came to rest upright, while the engine, fuselage, and tail were upside-down. The plane then caught fire.

Components were checked, including flight controls, fuel system, the engine, magnetos, carburetor, oil filter and airframe. A review of the flaps system — devices on the rear of the wing used to increase the wing’s lift for takeoff and landing — indicates they were not in use at the time of the crash.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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