Pilot error killed Telford Aviation founder, investigators say

Posted Oct. 25, 2011, at 3:50 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2011, at 8:08 p.m.
Telford Allen II, founder of Telford Aviation Services.
Telford Allen II, founder of Telford Aviation Services.

ROCKWOOD, Maine — Pilot error possibly arising from judgment impaired by an over-the-counter allergy medicine caused the floatplane crash that killed the founder of Telford Aviation on Moosehead Lake last year, federal investigators said Tuesday.

A probable cause determination by the National Transportation Safety Board said that Telford Allen II, 64, of Rockwood accidentally crashed his Cessna A185F on Aug. 1, 2010, because landing gear he failed to raise after the plane took off from a Rangeley airfield caught the water.

Allen, investigators said, had taken enough of an over-the-counter antihistamine, diphenhydramine, to probably impair his judgment. His anticipating surgery for stomach cancer might have also contributed to the accident, the report states.

“While the pilot may have been having difficulty sleeping due to back pain or his impending surgery or possible chemotherapy, the investigation was unable to determine that fatigue was a factor in the accident,” the report states.

The crash instantly killed Allen and injured a passenger, Natalie Holmes-Moody, 61, of Rockwood.

Allen was trying to land his floatplane near his home in Rockwood at the mouth of Moose River off Route 6 when the accident occurred, police have said.

Holmes-Moody told state police that on the morning of the accident, Allen “wasn’t feeling well” but that after breakfast “he was feeling much better and felt he was fine to fly.” She also reported that “they had a normal flight” and the area of the accident was “the same area he always lands,” the report states.

It was not clear from the report whether the Cessna’s landing gear motor and the audio warning system advising that the landing gear was up or down were functioning at the time of the crash or damaged by the crash.

A mechanic testing the plane after the crash said that the electric landing-gear motor wasn’t working but that the hydraulic hand pump controlling the landing gear and the four green lights indicating that the landing gear was down and locked were functional.

According to the report, the mechanic pushed and held the “Gear Advisory” warning button for at least five seconds in unsuccessful attempts to initiate a system self-test, “but only static could be heard through the over-head speaker, headphones, and internal audio panel speaker,” the report states.

Allen founded Telford Aviation Services in 1982 in Waterville as a mom-and-pop charter flight company. It relocated to Bangor International Airport in the 1990s and evolved into the Telford Group, a regional and national leader in both airplane parts sales and maintenance.

The company was sold in 2009 to ACC Holding LLC of Milwaukee, Wis., several years after Allen turned the running of the business over to his sons, Telford Allen III and Travis Allen, according to a story previously published in the Bangor Daily News.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are responsible for investigating the crash. It often takes months before a final report determining the cause of a crash is issued.

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