TSB to investigate myriad of possible causes behind Kingston plane crash

Otabek Oblokulov, pictured here while undergoing pilot’s training, as posted on Oblokulov’s Facebook page on March 29, 2008. Oblokulov became a licenced pilot in the US in May of 2018. Photo via Facebook.

The plane crash in Kingston’s west end earlier this week took the lives of a family of five from Texas, and a couple from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

As first reported by CBC, the plane, a Piper PA-32 (also known as a Cherokee Six), was being piloted by Otabek Oblokulov, of Texas. The passengers included his wife and their children, ages three, 11, and 15, and the Toronto area couple, Bobomurod Nabiev and his wife, Sabina Usmanova.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) confirmed that the plane left the Toronto/Buttonville Airport in Markham with a final destination of Quebec City and was preparing to land at Norman Rogers Airport in Kingston as a temporary stopover, however while on approach to the airport the plane crashed into dense bush in a field off of Creekford Road shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019.

On that cold, wet, and windy evening, first responders worked tirelessly to locate the plane over a number of hours. When the site was located, it was secured by police pending the arrival of the TSB, who took over the investigation in cooperation with Kingston Police.

As the investigation continues, the TSB will be looking into a multitude of possible causes for the plane crash. Below is the information we’ve compiled looking at some of the possible factors they will be investigating.

Weather

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 was a cool day, with rain beginning at noon and continuing through the day and night. A high wind advisory issued by Environment Canada had been in effect for the area since the weekend before, and strong wind gusts were recorded throughout the area on Wednesday. Weather records also confirm fog in the region.

The TSB will be investigating whether reduced visibility as a result of the inclement weather, known in aviation as Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), might have been a factor in the crash. The TSB will also be investigating if the cold, wet weather conditions might have caused icing on the airplane’s wings, a hazardous condition which occurs in cold, wet weather and severely reduces an airplane’s aerodynamic lift.

Time of day

The sun set in Kingston on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 at approximately 4:30 p.m. As is common this time of year, visibility reduces greatly after the sun sets, which may have had some impact on the maintaining the flight path to Norman Rogers Airport.

Emergency vehicles lined Creekford Road as first responders attempted to locate the plane crash site in the dark of the early evening on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Plane maintenance

The airplane, a 1965 Piper-32-260 also known as a Cherokee Six, first received its Airworthiness certificate on June 16, 1972, according to FAA records. FAA records show that for much of its recent history, the airplane had been corporately owned, up until 2010 when it was sold to a private owner based in Texas. That owner kept the plane for about 5 years and then sold it to another private owner based in New York and North Carolina. This owner kept the aircraft for about 3 years before selling it to Oblokulov.

Prior to the fatal crash in Kingston, the FAA had registered no accidents or incidents involving the aircraft, nor had any maintenance issues been recorded. The TSB will be investigating whether any unacknowledged maintenance and repair issues might have been contributory to the crash.

Engine troubles/fuel

The plane was spotted by witnesses shortly after 5 p.m., when observers in the vicinity of the PetroCan gas station on Gardiners Road and Centennial Drive saw and heard a small airplane appear to experience engine trouble and crash shortly thereafter. Additionally, the TSB reported there was no fire following the impact. The TSB will be inspecting the plane’s engine and flight records carefully for any signs of engine malfunction, and also investigating whether the airplane had been carrying sufficient fuel for its trip.

Pilot experience

Oblokulov trained at Anson Aviation, based out of Sugar Land, Texas, and obtained his first plane, the Piper PA-32, through the training facility. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, he purchased the plane, his first, on March 13, 2019, and it was registered on March 18, 2019.

Otabek Oblokulov stands in front of his newly-purchased plane in a photo posted on the Anson Aviation Facebook page.

While the Piper PA-32 is a small, general aviation aircraft, it is considered to be a relatively fast, complex airplane when compared to more common beginner airplanes like a Cessna 152 or 172. Generally, the Piper PA-32 is considered an upgrade for more experienced private or commercial pilots, according to those in the local aviation community.

According to the FAA, Oblokulov had been a licenced pilot for about a year and a half, since May 21, 2018. He only had Visual Flight Rules qualifications, which in Canada do not permit night flying, nor flying in inclement weather. As a pilot based in the more temperate climate of Texas, Oblokulov may also not have been familiar with the severe effects of icing on an airplane’s performance, a regular cause of concern for pilots in Canada.

In Canada, pilots are required to have a night-time rating in order to fly at night. The US, however, does not require a separate rating or endorsement for nighttime flying. Instead, they require three hours of supervised nighttime flying as part of their Private Pilot Licence, and upon the completion thereof they are permitted to fly at night. The TSB will be examining whether a VFR-trained pilot flying into inclement (IMC) weather might have contributed to the crash.

Weight/balance

Weight and balance calculations are an important component of any pre-flight preparation, to ensure that an airplane will perform safely through takeoff, flight and landing.

A Piper PA-32 is typically capable of carrying up to six occupants, depending on the particular configurations of the aircraft, and the TSB confirmed that the aircraft only had six seats. Investigators have now also confirmed there were seven victims in the fatal crash, three of which were children. It is not known at this time whether there was any luggage or cargo inside the airplane during the flight, and if so, whether it was properly secured for flight. Investigators will be carefully reviewing whether improper weight and balance factored into the crash.


TSB personnel continue to investigate the crash at the scene, and are expected to do so over the coming days and weeks, carefully considering each of these and other possible factors, both individually and how they might have collectively contributed to the crash.

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this case and provide updates as more information becomes available.

With files from Cris Vilela.

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  1. Dave Shepherd November 29, 2019
  2. Dinah November 29, 2019
  3. greg November 30, 2019
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