Stuck Valve Among Issues Causing Plane’s Emergency Landing

OCEAN CITY — The small plane forced to make an emergency landing off the beach last July suffered engine trouble about eight miles offshore and was attempting to get to the airport, according to the final National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report released this week.

Around 6:15 p.m. last July 16, a single-engine 1981 Cessna 172 RG crashed into the ocean about a quarter mile from shore at 21st Street. The pilot and lone occupant, identified as Trevor Deihl, 23, of Reedville, Va., was not seriously injured.

The NTSB this week released its final report on the incident. According to the report, the Cessna 172 RG was registered and operated by Deihl at the time of the incident. The flight originated at the Reedville Airport in Reedville, Va. and its stated purpose was an aerial survey. According to the NTSB report, the purpose of the flight was to spot fish in support of a commercial fishing operation. According to the NTSB report, Deihl outlined where and when he began to experience engine trouble.

“According to the pilot, at 3,000 feet about eight miles offshore while conducting fish-spotting operations, the engine began to shake and lose RPMs,” the final report reads. “In an effort to avoid ditching in the ocean waters, he navigated to the shoreline and the nearest airport. When it became evident he was unable to reach the airport, he ditched the airplane in the shallow waters of the ocean surf to avoid bystanders on the beach.”

A video of the crash shows the plane maintaining a horizontal position as it glided into the ocean before nose-diving into the water. It is uncertain just when Deihl was able to get out of the downed aircraft, but he was successfully able to glide it into the water just offshore in front of a crowded Ocean City beach in mid-July. Had the incident occurred much earlier in the day, there likely would have been numerous swimmers and bathers in the ocean in that area.

According to the NTSB final report, the skies were clear with high visibility and light winds. There were no meteorological conditions that contributed to the emergency landing. The plane suffered extensive damage to the right elevator, according to the report. However, it was essentially destroyed when it was pulled from the ocean. Personnel from the Ocean City Beach Patrol, the Ocean City Police Department and the Ocean City Fire Department responded immediately to the scene. Deihl was assessed and it was determined he was not seriously injured. Members of the Ocean City Fire Department dive team stabilized the downed aircraft, which had floated into the shoreline.

Waves pounded the vessel as it came to rest in the shore break, causing further damage. The plane was ultimately dragged onto the beach and later removed.

According to the NTSB final report released this week, the doomed aircraft suffered mechanical issues including a stuck valve. NTSB investigators interviewed a mechanic who worked on the ill-fated plane and the mechanic said the stuck valve that likely contributed to the crash was common in similar aircraft used for the same fish-spotting operations.

“According to a mechanic who maintained the airplane, the aircraft and about 10 others flew about 1,000 hours a year for fish-spotting operations,” the final report reads. “He said that stuck valves were common as the airplanes were operated at low altitudes with rich engine fuel-air mixtures. He went on to state that the number-two cylinder on the accident airplane had been replaced due to a stuck valve that contacted the piston, which necessitated replacement of the entire cylinder assembly.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.