NTSB: Pilot error caused 2014 crash into L.I. Sound in Mattituck

A Sea Tow helps pull the downed plane from water in Mattituck Inlet Monday afternoon. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A July 2014 fatal plane crash in Mattituck occurred when the pilot failed to properly calculate the airplane’s center of gravity limits, according to a probable cause report released last month by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The miscalculation resulted in longitudinal instability, sending the experimental aircraft and its pilot on a 6,000-feet-per-minute descent into the Long Island Sound on the evening of July 6, 2014, according to the report.

“The airplane’s calculated center of gravity was about three inches beyond the … limit, which likely induced longitudinal instability and led to a subsequent deep, unrecoverable stall,” the report states, adding that there was no sign of mechanical failure.

Zubair Khan in 2006 with his brother-in-law. (Credit: Courtesy of Umar Niazi)
Zubair Khan (bottom) in 2006 with his brother-in-law. (Credit: Courtesy of Umar Niazi)

The pilot, Zubair Khan, 41, of New York City was found dead inside the plane the following morning by U.S. Coast Guard officials who began searching for the aircraft after another pilot spotted it submerged in the water off the coast of Mattituck.

As last month’s probable cause report confirms, Mr. Khan appeared to have attempted to exit the plane before the crash. The parachute pack was found deployed and partially wrapped around the propeller.

“The canopy was likely opened in flight,” the report states. “The pilot likely recognized that the stall was unrecoverable and attempted to bail out of the airplane but was unsuccessful.”

The crash occurred about 10 minutes into the flight after Mr. Khan departed from Brookhaven Calabro Airport about 6:55 p.m. Radar showed the plane attempted to make a hard left turn about nine minutes later, then quickly began to descend.

Mr. Khan, a native of Pakistan and a veteran of its navy, had worked for more than two years to build the plane himself, converting a twin-engine CoZy aircraft into one with a larger single engine. He had taken it on its first test flight about four months before the crash.

Mr. Khan was a financial software engineer who had worked for several major international banks in the years before his death, his family said at the time of the crash.

Toxicology testing showed Mr. Khan had used marijuana at some time before the accident, the NTSB report states, though the low levels detected “indicated he was not likely significantly impaired by its use at the time of the accident.”

Caption: A Sea Tow employee helps pull the downed plane from water in Mattituck Inlet on July 7, 2014. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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