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Cory Lidle Crash Mystery Solved?

Let me start with the disclaimer... This is not definitive proof of why Cory Lidle crashed. The accuracy of this radar track has not been verified. Also I don't do this for a living. But having said all that, I think I have more than enough data to make this post. Judge for yourself:

What most non-pilot type people don't know is that (historical) radar tracks are available on the web. Being a curious guy I went looking for the track of the plane and what I found stunned me.

If you'd like to see this for yourself, start here and set your time settings as I have mine, (click for full size pic) then hit the start on the upper-right of the window.


As you can see (bottom left) I highlighted Cory Lidle's plane in red. You can see on the right side it is at 700ft. It was just starting up the East River in this screen grab. Look up river you'll see a plane heading south -- toward Lidle. It's at 900ft and descending.

To get the full effect, you'll have to watch it develop in real time but if you'd prefer not, this shows that Lidle was apparently avoiding a mid-air about a minute before the crash. The other plane apparently does a U turn to avoid the crash and goes below radar for a time.

Lidle continues north for another minute or so. At 14:41:46 it makes a hard left turn and at 14:41:57 it disappears off radar.

Again, this is not the Final NTSB report (and this data may be flawed) but you're welcome to watch the track for yourself. From what we've seen, whoever was flying was doing their best to avoid a mid-air collision. (and/or was caught in the wash of the other plane etc.)

[Update: The way I worded this, it sorta sounds like I mean the pilot avoided the other plane and took a turn into the building. With over a minute between the events, obviously that's not that case. What I should have typed is that I think the near miss was the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately lead to the crash.]

How do I know this is the right plane? We'll besides the obvious that we see the end of the flight, the media gave us the N number, the departure airport and the time. I tracked it from takeoff, confirming the N number. It loses the N number data shortly after take-off and sometimes it is jumpy, but combined with the seemingly obvious mid-air and flight termination, I'm positive I'm on the right aircraft. I just used LGA's radar because it had the apparent midair clearly.

Again, this isn't definitive but I believe over the next few days, we'll learn this is what happened.

Update: Kevin was cool enough to make a movie out of to make it easier on everyone. Thanks Kev.

The video is at 2X to speed things up and make the flight progress easier to see...


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Comments (35)

Paul, I stated in the older... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Paul, I stated in the older thread about you coming across being an a-hole, but when you put your mind to it, you do come across with the goods...yeah, this is pretty compelling. You may have nailed it. Good work!

I don't know...this is a gr... (Below threshold)

I don't know...this is a great piece of information to peruse, I forgot this stuff was available. But the near-miss was a full minute before the crash and the other aircraft descended out of the way.

It looks to me more like a simple stall out of a steep turn. I've done all my flying on the west coast but tonight I've been reading up on the NY VFR Corridor...the one up the East River which is what he was using doesn't go all the way through. It requires a steep 180 at the end. Stall speed goes up in a turn, the steeper the turn the more the stall speed increases (you're loading the wings with G-forces).

About 3/4 of the way through that turn is when his radar return stopped.

Moon:Hmm..which ap... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:


Hmm..which approach are you looking at? The Expressway Visual Rwy 31 or the River Approach 13?

The EV31 seems to go up the Hudson, but the plane was above the East River on the other side of the Island, and the River Approach goes east of the river over Prospect Park...Was he setting up for an approach to the 134 radial, because that's where the apparent mid-air location looked to be.

Moon:Oh, I see wha... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:


Oh, I see what you are looking at: the Hudson River Corridor. But, I'm scratching my head, because the track above looks like he was on the East River, and out of the corridor....

I'm not so sure Paul. The ... (Below threshold)

I'm not so sure Paul. The other plane descends and then turns well before Lidle's plane gets there. From what I remember about that area, seaplanes land along that stretch of the river. New York Skyports Inc Seaplane Base is right there. I've only flown over NYC once, but private traffic flying VFR is supposed to cross the island over Central Park, which is where he started to head.

Also, if you run the radar ... (Below threshold)

Also, if you run the radar track at the five mile range it shows that they have what looks like a reasonable amount of vertical and horizontal separation. Lidle's plane makes no change of course for over a minute after the other plane drops radar and then drops 100 feet turning west and then drops off radar. That particular plane is known for difficulty in stall recovery, if they had any kind of problem that cost them airspeed -- including pilot error -- or if they were just going to slow for the turn they wouldn't have much room to correct.

>Also, if you run the radar... (Below threshold)

>Also, if you run the radar track at the five mile range it shows that they have what looks like a reasonable amount of vertical and horizontal separation.

hmmm I get 200ft vert at 10 miles and at 5 mile range I still only get 300 - being generous. And it is clear they are within 100ft of the same alt just seconds before they cross paths. (I get no horz separation b/c the other craft goes below radar to me it looks like they cross.)

Now you're correct the turn helps the "random stall" theory. Perhaps they were still shaken up by turning to 360 and seeing someone coming dead at them and they both forgot to hit the throttle....

Perhaps Mav lost an engine from the jetwash and went into a flat spin... oops wrong movie.

I dunno, many witnesses reported he was doing aerobatics. -- Given witnesses are notoriously unreliable in air crashes-- but that would mesh with his being out of control.

It looks to us like he continued on normally for that minute but the radar ain't that precise.

I'm having trouble with the near miss and the eventual outcome not being related.

hmmm maybe I should have sa... (Below threshold)

hmmm maybe I should have said this better:

this shows that Lidle was apparently avoiding a mid-air.

Maybe a better way to say that is I think the near miss was the begining of a chain of events that lead to the crash. -- That way I worded it, it makes it sound like I mean he took a left to avoid a collision and hit a building he did not see. Obviously that's not the case.

OK guys... I reworded so... (Below threshold)

OK guys... I reworded some of it. I think it's better now. thanks.

Any more input appreciated.

Bottom line, I think the whole thing started with the near miss. -- Or at least from what we know plus this one hunk of data anyway.


But according to our intell... (Below threshold)

But according to our intellectual betters at KOS, Olbermann, DU and other "Truther" groups, this was all a Bush/Rove conspiracy.

Paul,The possibility... (Below threshold)
sammy small:

The possibility of a near miss could have certainly startled Lidle. An inexperienced pilot can become flustered pretty easily. The instructor should have made things more calm though.

The scale is too large to see any detail, but obviously Lidle was making a left turn before the track was lost. He sits on the left side of the cockpit I presume. Another thought is that he failed to visually clear the area into which he was turning adequately and turned into the building. Maybe, maybe not. I've also heard fuel concerns on some news report, and maybe a stall. I doubt the stall since one just has to let go of the yoke in small planes and recovery is achieved, especially with an instructor aboard.

And for pilots who think in terms of "stall speed", the term is misleading and confusing. A stall is simply exceeding the "angle of attack" in which the wings can continue to provide adequate lift. Some planes can stall gracefully and under controlled conditions, but most stall abruptly. I can stall a plane at almost any speed, and at almost any g loading. Don't be lulled into thinking about a stall in those terms.

Nice work.... (Below threshold)

Nice work.

Could there have been some ... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Could there have been some wake involvement? The aircraft that they had the near-miss with was probably another small aircraft, judging by its relative velocity and the fact that it was evidently using the VFR corridor too. So I don't know if that factors. However, I do note that what appears to be a heavy (judging by its higher velocity), moving approximately southeast, crosses just north of where Lidle's plane turned about 30 seconds prior. I can't see the altitude data, though.

It looks like they or He pa... (Below threshold)

It looks like they or He panicked or misjudged and turned too early. Either that or was pushed into that turn beyond their control. Too bad.

OK, Here goes. As an instr... (Below threshold)
USMC Pilot:

OK, Here goes. As an instructor pilot for 18 months, in light fixed wing, this is my best guess.

First, the aerobatic idea doesn't hold much water, since any instructor pilot that would let a student do aerobatics below 1,000 ft ought to die for being stupid. The spin idea doesn't seem much better, since the aircraft would have hit the building on much more of a descending attitude, and the damage to the building seems to be from a more horizonal hit.

After seeing the radar track several times, I noticed that after moving out to the center of the river to avoid the other aicraft they never returned to the east bank of the river. This ment that their already tight turn to port would have been made even tighter. During a tight turn many pilots will use back stick to bring the nose around quicker, thus increasing angle of attack, which slows the aircraft (through drag) and raises stall speed.

Here is where I start to guess at what happened. In a low wing aircraft everything below and to the right goes out of sight when in a left turn. Almost all aircraft manufactured in the last 50 years have stall warning devices. I believe that while in a tight left turn, they began to stall and initiated the stall recovery. This recovery being lower nose, level wings and add power. The sudden adding of power could explain the wittnesses on the ground reporting engine problems. Since, the buiding was essentially out of sight once their nose reach it in the turn, it would not have been seen untill to late in the stall recovery. The strike on the building would have been straight ahead, wings level and at full power. A loss of 2-300 ft. during this time would not be unreasonable, and would be consistent with their loss of altitude before striking the building. The smoke reported by the wittness could very well have been engine exaust resulting from the sudden adding of full power.

This is, as I said, only a guess, but it seems to fit all of the facts as I now know them.

USMC Pilot - Well reasoned,... (Below threshold)

USMC Pilot - Well reasoned, and it fits the facts as they are known this morning. It is in accordance to procedures that the pilots were trained in.

The VFR airspace they were constrained to fly in was narrow, and allows flight below 1100' (to 'protect' La Guardia's airspace) and dead ends where the turn was being made. A 50 story building would extend 500' up into that space, not leaving much room for error.

Thanks, USMC. Very well rea... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Thanks, USMC. Very well reasoned from someone with experience.

Question: Why would the instructor let him make such a dangerous and tight turn, knowing the possible height hazards of 50-story apartment buildings? Could it be an error on the instructor's part that he allowed Lidle to make this turn?

Does the radar 'movie' indi... (Below threshold)

Does the radar 'movie' indicate just fixed wing aircraft? There are also two heliports along the East river in Manhattan. That could be where that other aircraft goes...

This is just another attemp... (Below threshold)

This is just another attempt by the Bush Family Evil Empire and International Zionism to blame the poor helpless Muslim "terrorists" for their own evil doin's. I know. Ace says so:

FACT: A "single engine plane" COULD NOT crash into an apartment building and merely knock out a few windows.

FACT: The fires burning in the building COULD NOT have been caused by the mere ignition of aircraft fuel. The plane in question was too small to carry enough feul to start such a large fire.

FACT: CIA/Mossad have been known to plant pyrotechnic devices in their past. Could they have planted firebombs in the precise apartment the plane hit? It seems likely.

FACT: It is possible to steer a plane by remote control -- especially a small one.

FACT: Initial "eyewitness" reports displayed great disagreement. Some insisted it was a "helicopter" that "crashed" into the building; others claimed a "small plane." Why was there so much dispute on such a readily-ascertained fact? There can be only one answer: Because it was actually a cruise missile fired by an offshore US submarine.

...and the most damning fact of all...

FACT: Absolutely no cameras -- NONE -- captured pictures or videos of this supposed "plane" hitting the apartment building. A small plane travels slow enough to be easily captured by even cheap video cameras. This strongly suggests the "aircraft" which hit the building was travelling too quickly to be captured on film, and again was therefore most likely a cruise missile fired by an offshore US submarine, almost certainly painted with Zionist slogans like "We love money!" and "Ben Gazzara Rocks!"

Read the rest at the link above, and then tell me it isn't all Bush's fault - if you dare!


Question: Why would the ... (Below threshold)

Question: Why would the instructor let him make such a dangerous and tight turn, knowing the possible height hazards of 50-story apartment buildings? Could it be an error on the instructor's part that he allowed Lidle to make this turn?

Under most circumstances that is a very normal manuever. One that is practiced over and over in flight training. The New York airspace is very congested and requires aircraft flying under visual flight rules to follow tight corridors to avoid commercial traffic in the three large airport traffic control areas. Flying up the East River requires a left turn over Central Park to cross over the island. Pilots make 90 degree turns on just about every flight, especially in traffic.

The aircraft that Lidle was flying is fairly high performance for a newer pilot and is made to handle better at higher speeds -- I'm over simplifying -- he would need to make sure that he had enough speed and power when initiating the turn to offset the angle of attack as other commenters stated above. Every aircraft behaves differently in this regard and it is up to the pilot to know the requirements for the airplane that they are piloting. The Cirrus has a higher stall speed and different stall characteristics than many aircraft in it's class and Lidle and the instructor would have been aware of that.

It could be that they entered the turn with too litle airspeed and started to stall in the turn, with an instructor on board, I would be surprised if that were the case. But, who knows, stranger things have happened. Also, that plane has enough power to quickly increase airspeed to help recover from the beginning of a stall -- unless they increased the angle of attack too much.

Paul's idea of a near miss brings up a lot of possibilities, situational awareness is very important to a newer pilot who can easily become overwhelmed by all of the things that he has to keep track of. It was an MVFR day -- very hazy -- and with limited visibility it could be that they just made a mistake. Again, the instructor should have been able to deal with the situation.

Another commentor mentioned the possibility of wake turbulance, which would definitely throw a small plane in a slow turn into trouble (I hit one on a landing once and it scared the crap out of me), it would take some unusual circumstances to pull a wake from a large aircraft that low before it dissipated.

So, to actually answer your question, in most circumstances, that turn should normally be very safe and easy to execute. Something went wrong, we just don't know what yet.

Update: Fox News' home page... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Update: Fox News' home page has Coast Guard video of the moment of impact. View is from about 1 mile away. (Sorry, I couldn't link the video.)

Thanks for the explanation,... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Thanks for the explanation, too, mesa.

Judging from the video on Fox, I sincerely doubt that visibility was a factor.

Peter F.:If your s... (Below threshold)
USMC Pilot:

Peter F.:

If your still around, the answer to your question (sorry I was working on my boat) is most likely that, although they were above the altitude of the building when they started the turn, the turn itself and the partial stall cause a loss of altitude durring the manuever. When a plane goes into a turn, some of the lift which was keeping the craft at altitude is now being used to turn the aircraft, and without adding power the plane will either slow down or descend or both. Many pilots are lazy and will simply trade a little airspeed for altitude during a turn in order to not have to mess with the throttle. In a low altitude tight turn, this bit of lazy can get you dead.

It would be interesting to ... (Below threshold)
Carl Johnson:

It would be interesting to know why the second plane following Lidle's isn't reported on anymore. It would be interesting to know exactly when NORAD was contacted- before of after Lidle was seen circling the Statue of Liberty? It would also be interesting to know why more than one witness said there "were no wings" on the object that hit the building. One paranoid poster mentions the aircraft's fuel being an issue (he says not enough). Since the reports say the aircraft apparently ran out of fuel you have to wonder what was ignited, then, to cause the blast and fireball?

It it possible that Homeland Security in this instance actually reacted too quickly and Lidle was killed due to mistaken identity?


The wake scenario would be ... (Below threshold)

The wake scenario would be odd since wakes tend to fall but under the right conditions maybe.

Anyone knows about the wind conditions. I know some pilots that have come to Kansas that have had problems with how much the wind carries them. If the wind was strong it could have carried them into their blind spot more than expected therefore contributing to incident.

USMC:No worries, t... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


No worries, thanks for the response. What you describe certainly sounds plausible. And thanks also for putting it in layman's terms!


It it possible that Homeland Security in this instance actually reacted too quickly and Lidle was killed due to mistaken identity?

In a word, no. Small planes like Lidle's, routinely go up and down the East River Corridor and are allowed to do so by the FAA. (I believe there's a ceiling that they can't go above and I think that's 4,000 ft, lest they interfere with commercial air traffic. Lidle himself testified to this in an informal conversation with ESPN's Alan Schwartz. It's a chilling story and worth a read.

I heard one report that sai... (Below threshold)

I heard one report that said he was departing on a cross country trip to his off season home in california. He was supposedly headed to tennessee for the first leg and would be staying with a friend.

If this is true, one would assume he had packed quite a few belongings to take home with him. Especially, since his current contract was up and he was to be a free agent...meaning good chance he would not be playing/living in new york the following season. Also, the flight instructor would have had a bag with him as well.

Additional weight in back could bring center of gravity issues into play. Things could have shifted in steep bank due to collision avoidance or the tight confines of the flight corridor.

Pure speculation, but could be a potential contributing factor...

Could the near miss give hi... (Below threshold)

Could the near miss give him a heart attack? or passed out? And the instructor was trying to gain control of the aircraft?

A near miss like that would... (Below threshold)

A near miss like that would sure get me shaky!

phxjay: I don't know that b... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

phxjay: I don't know that baggage shifting per se would have played a role. Small GA aircraft are usually designed such that as long as the max gross weight is not exceeded, passengers and baggage can be put anywhere in the cabin and the balance envelope will not be exceeded.

However, the sheer mass could have played a role. As you point out, they were apparently set for a long flight. Not only would they have had bags with them, they also would have had the plane full of fuel, or nearly so. More weight increases wing loading and effects the stall speed. Also, the fuel load would explain the extent of the fire that resulted from the crash. (Recall that a couple of years ago, when that teenage jihadist-wannabe flew a small plane into the side of an office building in Tamps, there was only minimal fire. That plane probably didn't have much fuel on board, since it was stolen.)

And Peter F rightly points out that GA aircraft fly the VFR corridors around Manhattan all the time. It's not unusual at all to see two of three of them in the Statue of Liberty area. For one thing, there is a huge market for still photos and visual imagery of Manhattan from the air. Photo planes and helis fly around all the time. The TV networks and local NY stations eat that stuff up. Those same news programs that are huffing and puffing about VFR flight around Manhattan are the same ones who would be outraged if they were no longer allowed to get aerial film clips of the city.

Many thanks to Paul for pos... (Below threshold)

Many thanks to Paul for posting this radar track. The instructor in this plane was my CFI and I am one among many who knew him who are struggling to understand this accident as fully as possible. This track helps a lot.

I won't speak to the potential causes: my experience is relatively light compared to a number of the posters above. I can say that Tyler Stanger (Lidle's instructor) was immensely competent as a pilot. He always forced his students to focus on possible contingencies and emergency procedures.

I've done some mountain flying with him and distinctly remember him lecturing me about leaving enough maneuvering space between the plane and the mountain face for an emergency turn, a situation which resembles some of the speculation above about a tight turn with buildings in the vicinity. I highly doubt that this experienced pilot forgot to add power in a low-altitude steep turn, but of course it may have been Lidle at the controls. I suppose the investigation will figure all of that out at some point.

As an airplane mechanic Tyler was intimately familiar with various aircraft, was always prepared for contingencies and was very aware of everything around him...all of which makes this event even more mystifying.

Nobody who flew with Tyler would have believed he'd die in an airplane.

Godfrey:I'm terrib... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


I'm terribly sorry for the loss of your friend.

Given your explanation and interactions with Mr. Stanger, I can't help but think that some massive mechanical failure or a possible fatal manuever by Lidle (much like Thurmon Munson) that Stanger was unable to correct in time are the two most likely causes for the crash. Obviously the margin for error was small in such a tight corridor. Just something in my gut tells me that it's one of these two things...

Perhaps it was a mental lap... (Below threshold)

Perhaps it was a mental lapse combined with unfamiliartiy with that particular airplane?

I flew this route in MSFSim 2004. The difference in my simulation from those depicted is that I tried to AVOID hitting the buildings while making the turn! The clips I viewed appeared to be aircraft simply making a leisurely turn toward the building with no avoidance measures necessary -- apparently in no-wind conditions.

Wind that day was 70 deg at 13kts with gusts to 23kts --which makes a left turn in that narrow corridor a bit tricky. (The smoke drifting on TV didn't seem to be in a 15 MPH wind, but I got this data from a trusted aviation website.) I flew a C-172 in these conditions and started my (wide) turn around the north tip of the island in the river which looks like I should have ample room to execute the 180 degree turn around and roll out inside the opposite river bank. The radar track confirms a turn in that approximate area.

The turn is difficult with the EAST wind, especially if you don't anticipate it ahead of time. It requires a steep turn to stay inside the opposite river bank. The turn is easy IF you (1) allow the airplane to drift OVER the opposite bank at 1000 ft, or (2) you begin the turn from the far opposite side -- the wind would be easing you over toward the buildings if you were distracted while flying northward. If you begin the turn at 1000' and later tighten the turn to stay inside the river bank and lose any altitude at all you have your hands full!

I agree with the suggestion that it probably was a typical stall/spin and recovery without time or distance to avoid the obstacles. One eye witness account supports this by saying the plane was doing "aerobatics" just before impact -- that "it's wing was pointing straight down just before it leveled out and hit the building." This abrupt wing drop is a typical stall characteristic for many aircraft, especially in a turn. I am not familiar with this particular airplane but it may be quick and violent.

Of course this could have been a result of loss of power in the turn, and one can come up with other situations -- mechanical failure, etc., but the stall seems very plausable.

The radar track, eyewitness accounts, impact studies, etc should easily provide enough information to discern whether it was a stall. If it was, it is a classic pilot-killer and usually bites us when turning final for a landing, while a strong crosswind is pushing us away from the target, in this case proper runway alignment.

Improper correction becomes fatal very quickly. In 20/20 hindsight, perhaps an upwind RIGHT turn-around would have been more prudent.

My condolences to those who knew these folks personally.

Thanks for your condolences... (Below threshold)

Thanks for your condolences. Tyler will be missed. If you'd like to check out some pictures of him (and of some of the beautiful scenery he saw from his cockpit) go to http://www.stangers.us


This entire discussion is a... (Below threshold)
Bull Shooter:

This entire discussion is a GREAT illustration of why everyone needs to wait until all the FACTS come out. This speculation is a total waste of time. Opionions are fun, but uninformed opinions tell more about those holding the opinion than the event.






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