NTSB Unsure Of Cause In Fatal Piper Crash

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On a clear morning in July 2004, a Piper Navajo flown by a retired airline pilot who had more than 32,000 hours of logged flight time hit a forested ridge in Ticonderoga, N.Y. The airplane was torn apart and burned, and the pilot and his passenger both died. The NTSB said in its recently released final report that it cannot find a cause for the crash. No pre-crash mechanical or structural failures could be documented, and the cause of death for both on board was listed as "undetermined." However, the NTSB notes that in the days before the crash, the passenger, who was under investigation by the FBI on suspicion of fraud, unsuccessfully tried to obtain millions of dollars in life insurance. He had also been "acting in an increasingly unusual manner," according to an FBI agent quoted in the NTSB report. "He began to take less care in his personal hygiene and attended work less often. His business appeared to be suffering increasing financial difficulties prior to the crash." The pilot was president of the air-charter company that operated the Navajo. He had an agreement with the passenger to provide flight service as an alternative to repaying a loan.