WASHINGTON – Poor judgment and planning by the pilots probably caused the small-plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Tuesday.
There were a number of bad decisions that resulted in the crash, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said after the board’s meeting about the accident, which damaged a Manhattan apartment tower and injured 23 people.
Investigators do not know who was piloting the single-engine Cirrus when it crashed Oct. 11. The plane did not have a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder.
Lidle, 34, who earned his pilot’s license in February 2006, owned the plane. He and instructor Tyler Stanger, 26, took off from a New Jersey airport that afternoon and flew up the East River at about 600 feet on a sightseeing trip, investigators said.
They were attempting a U-turn when the crash occurred. Investigators said Lidle and Stanger apparently did not take into account a 15-mph crosswind, which pushed the plane toward the high-rise.
Among their mistakes, the pilots did not start their turn far enough over the east side of the river and did not begin the maneuver at an angle steep enough to compensate for the wind, board members and investigators said.
The pilots could have turned in the opposite direction – into the wind – and safely completed the maneuver, they said.
As they neared the building, the pilots tightened their turn, probably causing an aerodynamic stall, or loss of lift on at least one wing, investigators said.
They also might have pushed the nose of the plane down to increase their airspeed and continue the turn.
In either case, the plane lost several hundred feet of altitude in a few seconds and crashed into the 32nd floor of the building, investigators said.
In its statement of probable cause, the board blamed the crash on the “pilots’ inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship.”
“They apparently didn’t have a plan about how they would get out of this once they reached the end of the airspace,” said Robert Sumwalt, the board’s vice chairman.
Pilots must have permission from air traffic controllers to enter much of New York City’s airspace. They can enter certain corridors without such clearance if the weather is good.
Such a corridor exists over the East River and extends up to 1,100 feet. It ends just up the river from where the pilots began the turn.
To avoid the crash, Lidle and Stanger could have radioed controllers for permission to enter controlled airspace. They also could have halted the turn and flown safely over Manhattan.
A lawyer who represents the families of Lidle and Stanger alleged Tuesday that a mechanical problem caused the crash. Rosenker and other board members dismissed that suggestion, saying investigators combed the wreckage and found nothing mechanically wrong with the plane.