SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A preliminary report into the plane crash in Suffolk that killed two North Carolina men indicates that the plane had mechanical issues and should not have been flown.
Two men were killed in the Jan. 7 crash that took place just after noon in an area a quarter-mile off of Carolina Road. The victims were identified by Virginia State Police as 54-year-old Christian Rask Fauchald and 53-year-old Eric John Bergevin.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s Aviation Investigation Preliminary Report indicated that the pilot of the plane received his private pilot certificate a little over a month earlier, on Nov. 29, 2022. The pilot owned the airplane and based it at the departure airport, Northeast Regional Airport in Edenton, N.C.
The pilot of the plane, a Piper PA-28-140, N592FL, contacted a mechanic at Northeast Regional Airport to tell him that the rpm drop “was excessive” during a magneto check, according to the report, and that he had parked the plan in front of the mechanic’s hangar to be evaluated more fully.
On Jan. 4, the mechanic looked at the plane, removing the spark plugs, cleaning them, and checking it for resistance. The mechanic found that two of the spark plugs had very high resistance, and another one fired “a little weak.” The mechanic proceeded to replace those three spark plugs and reinstalled the other five spark plugs in the plane’s engine.
Due to working on another plane, the mechanic had not performed a ground engine run on the Piper PA-28-140.
The pilot performed a ground run of the engine, and as soon as the pilot ran it, “the mechanic knew ‘right away’ that the new spark plugs did not correct the problem as the engine was ‘skipping,'” the report states.
“The pilot shut down the engine and the mechanic informed the pilot that the airplane was not to be flown until he could investigate further, and he would most likely be able to do so on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023,” the preliminary report states. “At the time of the accident, the airplane had not been released from maintenance as the mechanic had not had an opportunity to further investigate the engine anomaly.”
Family members said the flight was a short hop to the Suffolk Executive Airport to get lunch.
The preliminary ADS-B flight track information from the Federal Aviation Administration noted that shortly before the crash, as the plane approached the Suffolk Executive Airport, it was in cruise flight at an altitude of 1,000 feet about five miles south of the airport.
“The plane then descended rapidly and impacted terrain,” the preliminary report stated. “A witness reported that she was a front seat passenger in a car and first observed the plane in a nosedive. At the time, there were two spiral trails of black smoke, about 5 to 10 feet behind the airplane; however, she did not observe any fire from the airplane.”
The plane impacted nose-down in a marshy field, with no debris path observed, and the wreckage coming to rest upright and oriented to the south. The preliminary report said a section of engine cowling was found about 50 feet south of the main wreckage.
A post-crash fire consumed the majority of the wreckage, according to the preliminary report, except for the wings and engine, which was buried in about three feet of mud.
Suffolk Suffolk Fire Chief Mike Barakey said the crash caused a large area of brush and trees to catch fire, with homes in the area threatened by what it said was a rapidly-progressing fire, and about 35 acres of open field and forest were impacted by the fire.