GROTON — Just before a small plane crashed into a house last month, the pilot reported an engine malfunction and attempted to land on a street, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, the Groton Emergency Communications Center received multiple calls reporting a plane crash at Ring and Donna drives.
The plane crashed into the home’s roof and into its living room.
Inside the twin-engine Piper PA-34-200 aircraft was a certified flight instructor and a pilot undergoing instruction.
The plane’s two occupants, who were not identified, self-extricated themselves and were transported to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. Both sustained minor injuries, police said.
Ken Johnson, owner of the house, was in his bedroom after watching television in his living room. Johnson, who was not injured, had some throat irritation from the fuel smell from the crashed plane.
Officials said there was no fire after the plane slammed into the house.
Johnson said it was “pure luck” that he had left the living room. His daughter, Tammy de la Cruz, who lives a few houses away, called it a miracle that her dad wasn’t hurt.
“I said to my dad, ‘There’s an angel that’s on your shoulder,’” she said.
The crash happened about 2 miles from Groton-New London Airport.
The plane, owned by Upgrade Inc., had earlier flown from Groton-New London airport to Bangor, Maine, leaving Groton at 5 p.m. and arriving in Bangor at 7:17 p.m., where it landed safely and refilled its fuel tanks, according to the NTSB report.
Around 8 p.m., the plane left Bangor and flew to Augusta State Airport and then to Portland International Jetport. The flight instructor indicated the pilot undergoing instruction performed one, and three touch-and-go landings at the airports, respectively, the report said.
After the last touch-and-go landing in Portland, the flight proceeded to Groton, where the pilot under instruction performed two more touch-and-go landings, the report said.
“The flight departed and remained in the traffic pattern for the same runway, where, when abeam (in the general position of) the approach end of runway 23 with the landing gear extended and 10 degrees of flaps extended, the pilot under instruction began to descend while turning onto the base leg of the airport traffic pattern,” the NTSB stated.
“The flight instructor stated that at times he heard an engine sputter and verified the controls were in the proper position,” the report said. “He heard the engine sputter again and ‘felt the [airplane] jerk’ and stated, ‘my controls.’
“He maintained airspeed and verified the engine controls were full forward, retracted the flaps but decided to leave the landing gear extended due to the altitude and proximity to the airport,” the report said.
“He verified the malfunction to be the right engine and felt it was developing some power, but with ‘less output’ than the left. He briefly pitched nose-down, then nose-up, and when he noticed a high decent rate, he feathered the right propeller and placed the right mixture control to idle cutoff,” the report said.
According to the report, the pilot was looking for a place to land on the street when the plane crashed into the house, the report said.
The airplane came to rest suspended by the roof structure of the house. The airplane, which had “substantial damage,” was recovered for further examination of the air frame, engine and propeller systems, the NTSB said.
The preliminary report did not list a probable cause of the crash. That finding will be in a final report that will be released within 18 months.