May 29, 2024
A two-plane crash over Watsonville Municipal Airport that claimed three lives in 2022 was caused by pilot error, according to a federal aviation accident oversight report released recently.

WATSONVILLE — A two-plane crash over Watsonville Municipal Airport that claimed three lives in 2022 was caused by pilot error, according to a federal aviation accident oversight panel’s recently released report.

“The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The failure of the pilot of the multi-engine airplane to see and avoid the single-engine airplane while performing a straight-in approach for landing,” states the 12-page report released March 28.

Earlier investigation details were released in a September 2022 preliminary report.

The midair collision between two privately operated planes occurred shortly before 3 p.m., Aug. 18, 2022. At the time, Stuart Camenson, 32, of Santa Cruz was piloting a single-engine Cessna 152 owned by pilot school Monterey Bay Aviation Inc. and rented through United Flight Services. Camenson was amid back-to-back takeoffs and landings at the airport at the time of the crash, according to the NTSB report.

As Camenson made his fifth approach to land, a twin-engine Cessna 340, piloted by Carl Kruppa, 75, of Winton, reported heading into the airport for a straight-in approach after arriving from Turlock. He was about 10 miles out from landing at the time.

A straight-in approach to an airport, versus using a standard traffic pattern approach, is considered outside the recommended norms, according to several aeronautical recommendations cited in the report.

“Both pilots continued to make appropriate position reports, but did not communicate with each other until the multiengine airplane was about one mile from the airport and the single-engine airplane had turned onto the base leg of the traffic pattern for landing,” the report states.

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When Kruppa, along with passenger Nannette Plett-Kruppa, 67, of Winton, were less than a mile out, Camenson stated that he saw the Cessna 340 and that the Cessna 340 was behind him. About 13 seconds later, he stated that he was, “going around, because you are coming at me pretty quick, man.”

According to the report, a witness who saw the day’s events while flying over the airport told investigators that he noticed the newly arrived double-engine Cessna 340 plane “moving much quicker than usual for landing.”

“He then saw the Cessna 340 try to turn right and its wing hit the wing of the Cessna 152,” the report states of the witness’ observations. “He subsequently saw both airplanes descend to the ground.”

Post-crash airplane examinations revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation, according to the report. Toxicology reports for each pilot revealed low levels of controlled substances, including THC in both men. However, the report states that the low amounts of each drug were not considered to be contributing factors to the accident.

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