The New York Post reported that officials have released “dramatic audio” profiling the moments leading up to a light plane crash in Westchester County, New York, on Jan. 20.
Audio notes the pilot declared an emergency after the plane experienced engine trouble. Poor visibility and weather conditions may have also contributed to the crash as in the final moments, the pilot, Boruch Taub, said, “I can’t see a thing up here.”
Taub and one passenger, Benjamin Chafetz, died when the single-engine Beechcraft A36 went down in a wooded area less than two miles from the Westchester County Airport.
Taub and Chafetz, Cleveland residents, were flying from JFK Airport to the Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio. Taub reported engine trouble at about 5 p.m.
The nearly nine-minute audio recording, posted by LiveATC.net, notes that the plane experienced problems soon after take off.
The first indications of a problem appeared before the plane reached its intended flight altitude of 8,000 feet.
At 3,700 feet, the pilot contacted control, saying: “New York Departure, N19MT, can we stop our climb at 6,000?”
Taub explained: “All right, I’m just not getting the performance we were expecting, and I’m not certain why,” Taub says. “I can’t understand why. We’re climbing at about 200 feet per minute, so 8,000 would take a long time.”
The pilot noted a marked lack of “vertical speed” and suggested the problem was likely a “dead cylinder” in the Lycoming six-cylinder engine.
Assessing options, Taub suggested to control: “So we would like to go to Westchester.”
“Are you declaring an emergency?” asked the controller.
“Not at this time,” Taub replied, but seconds later, the pilot said: “I am declaring an emergency. My oil pressure is dropping.”
Taub was instructed to “fly wings level” at 5,000 feet and warned that the cloud base was 300 feet, the visibility was poor, and ground crews reported rainy conditions.
Control cleared Taub to land on Runway 16 at Westchester County Airport.
Moments later, Taub signaled: “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”
The controller attempted to de-escalate the situation: “Understand. The airport is just behind you now,” said control. “You wanna start a left turn if you can. I’m seeing a right turn. You’re set up perfectly for a left base to Runway 16, 11 o’clock, just under 2 miles.”
The controller added: “You look beautiful for the left base for Runway 16.”
In the final moments, Taub requested additional assistance, saying, “If you can keep giving me vectors. I can’t see a thing out here.”
The final transmissions note the controller saying: “You wanna correct back to the left for the runway at your 10 o’clock.”
The last statement noted: “Radar contact lost.”
Taub and Chafetz were prominent members of Cleveland’s close-knit Orthodox Jewish community. They were flying back to Ohio after attending a funeral.
According to the Jewish Chronicle, in the moments before the crash, Chafetz sent a text message believed to be a private farewell to his wife:
“I love you and the kids. I am sorry for everything I have done. We lost engines. Call and have community say Tehillim,” a Hebrew term referencing the book of Psalms.
Rabbi Nissim Abrin with the Bais Avrohom community told FOX 8: “We were hoping for the best, bracing for the worst, and unfortunately, when the news was confirmed, we plunged into, you know, shock and grief.”
Abrin added: “They were both devoted husbands, loving husbands, fathers, and very proud of their families.”
Chafetz is survived by his wife Smadar and seven children. He owned a web development company in Beachwood. Taub owned Masterworks Automotive & Transmission in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
The New York Post reported the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.