'Mercy Flight' Crashed On IFR Approach To Airport
A mission of mercy and personal favor for a pilot's ailing
friend ended in tragedy November 7, when a Partenavia P68C crashed
during a nighttime approach to Florida's Gainesville Regional
Airport (GNV) in low IFR conditions.
The Gainesville Sun reported pilot Andrew Ricciuti, was
killed when the plane impacted a wooded area less than a mile from
Runway 29 at GNV. Also lost in the crash were Gordon Bennett
Taylor, 51, and his wife, Barbara Taylor, 52.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board's
preliminary report on the accident, Ricciuti received a late
evening phone call from Gordon Bennett Taylor, who was on an organ
transplant waiting list. Taylor told the pilot a possible organ was
available in Gainesville, and that he'd have to get there quickly
for surgery the following morning.
The pilot then spoke with the owner/operator of the Partenavia,
which was registered to Key West Aviation in Key West, FL. The
company owner agreed to cover a scheduled trip for Ricciuti that
morning, so he could fly Taylor and his wife to Gainesville. The
owner also told the pilot he wouldn't charge the Taylors for the
trip, as it was a favor to Ricciuti.
The P68C departed Key West at 0037 EST on November 7, on an IFR
flight plan to Gainesville. As the plane approached GNV, Ricciuti
contacted an FBO employee at the airport, who advised the pilot
visibility was low due to fog, and he could not see the terminal
lights from the FBO.
When asked about possible alternates, the employee told Ricciuti
he did not know which airport was closer, Leesburg or St.
Augustine. After clicking the pilot-operated runway lights at GNV
to the highest setting, Ricciuti elected to continue the approach
"According to preliminary data from Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) air traffic control (ATC), Jacksonville Center
cleared the flight for the "ILS RWY 29" approach at GNV about
0240," the NTSB report states.
"About 10 miles from GNV, the pilot was instructed to contact
the local common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as the control
tower at GNV was closed. Radar contact was lost with the accident
airplane about 0245. The last recorded radar target was about 1.25
miles east of GNV, at 400 feet mean sea level."
Rescuers found the wreckage at approximately 0700 that morning,
approximately 3,575 feet from the runway 29 threshold. All three
persons onboard were killed in the crash, and ensuing fire.
Investigators noted the plane's flaps were retracted. No
mechanical anomalies with either of the aircraft's two piston
engines were immediately evident, though examiners did note the
throttles on both engines were in the full open position.
The reported weather at GNV at the time of the accident was calm
winds, with visibility 1/4 mile in fog and vertical visibility 100