LAKE PLACID - A National Transportation Safety Board report blamed pilot error for the crash that took place near Big Burn Mountain at roughly 6 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Frank Dombroski of Westfield, N.J.,was flying to Lake Placid airport with his two friends, Michael Oster and Jeff O'Connor, when the plane crashed. None of the men was seriously injured.
Specifically, the NTSB said the probable cause of the crash was "the pilot's improper in-flight planning and decision making, which resulted in attempted visual flight in night instrument meteorological conditions."
The pilot’s viewpoint is seen in the wreckage of a Vans RV-10 plane Feb. 22 near Big Burn Mountain. The National Traffic Safety Board is reporting that the cause of the crash in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness was pilot error.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
Dombroski reported that as he approached the Lake Placid airport light conditions were significantly darker under the cloud layer. The sun was setting at the time. As he attempted to activate the runway lights, they didn't come on.
"As the pilot considered whether to climb or circle the airport and try the lights again, he maintained his last heading, which he believed would keep him over lower terrain," the report states. "However, the airplane drifted right of course."
The plane then hit the tops of the trees and crashed into the snowy forest below.
"Radar data revealed that the pilot had never become established on the approach, at no point was in position to land, and was never closer than 1 mile northeast of the airport before flying into rising terrain," the report states. "No anomalies with airport lighting were discovered."
The men were flying in a four-seat Vans RV-10 plane made by Dombroski. Their flight started at Somerset Airport in Bedminster, N.J. They were visiting Lake Placid to go skiing for the weekend.
The men were rescued by forest rangers, who found them at about 2 a.m., roughly a mile from Whiteface Inn Road, west of Lake Placid. The plane crash survivors had used their cell phone to call for a rescue. They had a GPS with them and provided the forest rangers with GPS coordinates; however, a miscommunication between the parties resulted in a delay in the men being found.
The NTSB report was issued on Aug. 7.