Feds issue first report on June 13 plane crash that killed South Portland man

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on Tuesday about the events leading up to a June 13 plane crash that killed Stephen D. Cardelli Jr., a 50-year-old pilot from South Portland.

Cardelli’s single-engine Cessna crashed shortly after take-off from Laconia Municipal Airport in New Hampshire, en route to Portland International Jetport. The plane reportedly clipped a 55-foot tall tree near the Margate Resort, 81 Lake St., in Gilford, N.H., before coming to rest near the parking lot. Cardelli was the only person on board.

The preliminary report, which does not identify a cause of crash, said Cardelli was in the process of purchasing the airplane. The nearly 30-year-old plane had been delivered to Laconia by its owner on May 31 to undergo an inspection.

“All of the inspections and discrepancies were complied with,” the report said, “and the airplane’s air frame, propeller and engine log book were signed off to be in airworthy condition.” 

The report released June 23 said there was a 4-knot wind and 10 miles of visibility on the day of the crash. An airport worker reportedly saw Cardelli attempt to start the plane several times over a period of five minutes. The worker reported that the engine “backfired or popped” twice before starting.

The worker reportedly did not watch the plane taxi to the runway.

The report said eye witnesses to the crash said there was no engine noise as the plane’s left wing struck the tree, sheering off the stabilizer. The plane then hit another tree 121 feet away. The tail section came to rest on the hood of a car parked at the resort. 

The main landing gear was found in the locked, upright position, while nose landing gear were in the unlocked down position. The throttle and propeller controls were found in the full-forward position.

The report said the oil filter had an install date of June 1 and two ounces of oil was extracted from the system. 

“The engine had a fracture that went around the entire longitudinal axis of the engine,” the report said. “However, there was no evidence of oil in the vicinity of the fracture.”

The airplane was manufactured in 1977 and was equipped with a Lycoming engine. The most recent annual inspection was accomplished on June 12. The engine was factory overhauled and installed in May 2002 and, at the last annual inspection, had a total time in service of 237.8 hours. The recorded hours at the time of the accident was 4,638.0 total hours on the airframe. 

Cardelli held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land and a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued on Dec. 5, 2008. At that time, he reported a total flight time of 6,820 hours.  

The NTSB said its report is based on preliminary information that may contain errors, so a final report could be different.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net