NTSB finds mechanical cause for fatal 2018 Greenwood Lake Airport plane crash

Jul 22 2019 | 03:31 AM

A July 8 report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that “an unapproved” fuel line caused the May 2, 2018 small plane crash at Greenwood Lake Airport that killed Haledon pastor Andrew Topp, 59.
“The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be an in-flight fire and total loss of engine power after takeoff due to a loose fuel line,” the report said. “Contributing to the accident was the installation of an unapproved fuel line by unknown personnel.”
On May 2, 2018, Topp took off from Greenwood Lake Airport at 2:10 p.m. in a six-seat, low-wing Piper PA-32-300 and crashed shortly after in a heavily wooded area of the former Jungle Habitat property owned by the state.
According to the report, the wreckage, including maintenance logs stored in the luggage compartment, was consumed by a post-crash fire and located about 1,100 feet to the left side of the departure end of runway 24.
Topp was heading to Orange County Airport in Montgomery, New York, according to the report.
The report said that Topp’s plane had a fuel line installed that was not approved for use in the aircraft, and it came loose during takeoff, spraying fuel on the exhaust system, causing a fire that resulted in “a total loss of power.”
With the maintenance log books destroyed in the fire, the NTSB could not determine when the faulty line was installed, or who installed it, the report said.
The report said that the line, while not approved for aircraft, looked “identical” to the part that is approved.
According to the report, Topp told a friend that he was having a problem with the plane’s engine and planned to taxi to the end of the runway, performing an “engine run up.”
If successful, Topp told his friend that he would take a “short cross-country” flight and then return.
The six seat, low-wing, tricycle gear airplane, was manufactured in 1968, powered by a Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, 300-horsepower engine and equipped with a two-bladed Hartzell propeller.
No flight plan was filed on the day of the incident, according to the report.
The weather at the time was clear with winds of 12 mph with gusts of 24 mph.
Topp held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land and a third-class medical certificate, issued April 27, 2016.
At the time of the medical examination, the Topp reported 625 total hours of flight experience.
He was the pastor of First Reformed Church of Boonton for more than 20 years and the founder and president of International Humanitarian Aid Foundation, which worked to help disaster victims in places such as Haiti, Texas and elsewhere.
Topp also used his plane to volunteer for organizations such as Home for Good Dog Rescue and Saving Hope, which help to rescue dogs from kill shelters and find them loving homes.
- Reporter Erika Norton contributed to this report.