TANEYTOWN, Md. (AP) — Federal investigators say fuel contamination probably caused a small airplane crash that killed two people near Taneytown in August 2009.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the findings Friday night.

Investigators say the experimental T-Bird II built by pilot Robert Kociemba of Davidsonville was fueled by a gasoline-ethanol blend.

Federal regulations prohibit gasahol for aviation, partly because climbing can cause it to separate into a solution containing water. Water and small particles killed the engine.

Investigators say an over-the-counter antihistamine may have impaired Kociemba’s ability to respond when the engine failed. He died in the crash, along with passenger Letty Williams of Edgewater.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (2)
  1. Mike Kociemba says:

    What the story fails to mention is that the Federal regulations prohibit a gasahol mixture that contains 10% ethanol. Analysis by the NTSB confirmed that the gasoline-ethanol mixture that was taken from the aircraft contained 8.8% ethanol. Although it is a very fine distinction and will not bring the lives of these two fine people back, the gasahol mixture was within Federal regulations.

    Additionally, the antihistamine that my brother used probably had no effect on his ability to recover from the situation he found himself in after the engine failed. The center of gravity for this aircraft is reportedly behind the pilot and passenger meaning that the nose of the aircraft would have a natural tendency to pitch up without power. This change in flight attitude would have caused the wings to stall. All pilots know that the aircraft’s control surfaces become non-responsive at the moment of the stall – the only way to recover from a stall is to gain sufficient airspeed to restore the lift provided by the aircraft’s wings. This usually requires much more altitude than the 250-300 feet they were at when the engine failed on takeoff. They simply ran out of sky and the results were fatal.

    Bob and Letty were best friends and are now resting in peace. My brother was a retired Naval Aviator (not mentioned in the NTSB report) and I’m confident that he did everything he could to save their lives in the 9-10 seconds he had to work with.

    Non-definitive articles like this one (“probably caused”, “can cause it to separate”, “may have impaired”) paint an inaccurate picture of what actually happened that day in August 2009.

    I used to be a pilot myself and the preceding comments are based on my opinion.


    Mike Kociemba

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