Doorbell cameras captured final seconds of doomed flight

David Porter
Associated Press

Newark, N.J. – Two doorbell cameras captured the final seconds of the flight of a small plane that crashed into a house last month in New Jersey and burst into flames, according to a preliminary report released Friday.

The Cessna crashed in the Colonia section of Woodbridge Township, about 18 miles southwest of New York, on Oct. 29, killing the pilot and damaging three homes. No one on the ground was injured.

In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, Woodbridge firefighters work to extinguish the scene of a plane crash at a home in Woodbridge, N.J.

Friday’s report didn’t speculate on what caused the crash, and many of its contents were already known from witness accounts and news reports. A probable cause report could take two years.

The pilot, Dr. Michael Schloss, of Port Orange, Florida, was an experienced flier who had left Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia that morning en route to an airport in Linden, New Jersey, about 3 miles from the crash site.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators wrote Friday that the plane maintained a steady altitude up to about 30 seconds before the crash, and then made a steep left turn in the final seconds. Air traffic controllers had cleared Schloss to approach the airport shortly before the crash.

A doorbell camera showed the plane’s rapidly accelerating downward left turn, and another showed the plane’s final four seconds as it disappeared behind treetops and crashed.

Significant portions of the plane were damaged by the impact and subsequent fire, but investigators were able to attain readings from the airspeed indicator and altimeter. Those indicated a speed of 59 knots, or about 68 mph, and an altitude of 200 feet, according to the report.

Schloss didn’t make a distress call to air traffic control before the crash, investigators have said. A preliminary autopsy report last week concluded the 74-year-old cardiologist was alive at the time of impact and found no evidence his heart was in distress.

The weather was overcast the day of the crash, and Schloss was flying using instruments to guide him, a technique he was qualified to use.