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About two hours into the flight, the aircraft descended out of the clouds and the helicopter established visual contact, reporting that the cabin appeared to be full of smoke and nobody was visible through the windows. Toxicological tests in the FAA lab in Oklahoma City revealed that the pilot's blood had a carboxyhemoglobin (CO) saturation of 43%, and the passenger's measured 69%.
Not long afterwards, the helicopter pilot reported that the Dakota had started descending rapidly and crashed into the woods near Lake Winnipesaukee, N. Those concentrations are sufficient to produce convulsions and coma.
However, ASF executive director Bruce Landsberg noted that CO accidents are "extremely rare," adding that "a search of the Air Safety Foundation accident database revealed only two accidents caused by carbon monoxide between 19." Much as I hate to contradict my good friend Bruce, my own quick search of the NTSB accident database suggests that CO-related accidents and incidents occur far more frequently than the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's statement would have you believe. Take a look at just some of the accidents and incidents my brief search turned up: Still think in-flight CO poisoning occurs too rarely to worry about? The fact is that deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning have dropped sharply in recent years, thanks mainly to lower CO emissions from automobiles with catalytic converters (60% of CO deaths are motor vehicle-related) and safer heating and cooking appliances.
Forty-five minutes into the flight, the woman reported that she, too, was getting tired and nauseated, and was unable to awaken the pilot.
Shortly thereafter, the airplane turned north and started climbing, and the woman stopped responding to radio calls.
For the past 16 of those years, he's owned and flown a Cessna T310R turbocharged twin, which he maintains himself. he dramatic crash of Piper Dakota N8263Y made all the evening TV newscasts on Friday, January 17, 1997. But less than a half-hour into the flight, something went terribly wrong: the pilot-in-command passed out cold.
The aircraft gradually climbed into the 5,000-foot cloud bases and continued climbing to 8,800 feet.
The helicopter lost sight of the emergency aircraft but attempted to follow it with the help of ATC.
NTSB metallurgists determined that the muffler contained a large crack and an irregular hole, both of which appeared to have been leaking exhaust gas for some time.
A week after the Dakota crash, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation issued a press release cautioning pilots about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and recommending that pilots of single-engine aircraft install a CO detector.
After determining that the passenger was pilot-rated, the controller spent the next 20 minutes trying to talk her down to a landing at Bridgeport, Conn.
An Air National Guard helicopter joined up with the aircraft and participated in the talk-down attempt, but without success.