Report on fatal Wallingford crash cites Cheshire pilot’s inexperience with aircraft

Report on fatal Wallingford crash cites Cheshire pilot’s inexperience with aircraft

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — A private pilot’s inexperience handling his new high-performance airplane led him to fatally crash near Meriden Markham Airport in April 2017, federal authorities wrote in a report released this week. 

Dr. Joseph Tomanelli of Cheshire, who was flying his newly purchased plane for the first time without an instructor on April 24, 2017, took an “unstable approach” when landing the plane, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board wrote in the report. 

Tomanelli, 56, was killed in the crash. The plane’s lone passenger, his 21-year-old son Daniel, was seriously injured. 

Tomanelli, a longtime physician and Cheshire resident, had about 1,200 total hours of flight experience prior to the crash. Most of Tomanelli’s experience, however, came from flying an airplane that wasn’t classified as “high-performance,” the report said. He had recently purchased a new “high-performance” Cirrus SR22 single-engine plane and received about 10 hours of “transition training” in the new plane prior to the crash.

“Despite receiving transition training,” the report said, “it is likely that the pilot's lack of experience with his new airplane and its flight characteristics, and particularly operation of the airplane in abnormal/emergency situations, contributed to his loss of control.” 

Tomanelli was landing the plane at Meriden Markam following an “uneventful local flight,” his son told investigators. Witnesses reported that the airplane was high and fast during the landing approach, touched down about halfway down the 3,100 foot long runway, and bounced about three times before conducting a “go-around,” or an aborted landing.  

Tomanelli’s second landing approach “appeared to be slower but was still high,” the report said. Tomanelli “flared,” a practice in which a pilot pulls the nose of an aircraft up just before landing. The plane went about 10 feet above the ground before abruptly descending, again touching about halfway down the runway. 

Tomanelli’s son told investigators the plane bounced “a couple of times” on the second landing and that the bounces “were pretty high.” After bouncing, the airplane's RPM, or revolutions per minute, increased and the airplane became airborne, pitching to an approximate 40 degree with its nose-up, a witness reported to investigators. 

“About 75 feet above the ground, the airplane entered a steep, left-turning descent that continued to ground contact; the airplane came to rest next to a road just outside airport property and was consumed by a postcrash fire,” the report stated. 

Investigators wrote that examination of the wrecked plane “revealed no evidence of any pre-impact failures or malfunctions of the airplane or engine that would have precluded normal operation.”
Twitter: @MatthewZabierek