Cause Of Plane Crash That Killed Ted Christopher Still Under Investigation

Ted Christopher (Photo: Michael Ivins/NASCAR)

National Transportation Safety Board investigators continue to investigate the cause of the September 16 crash that killed legendary short track racer Ted Christopher of Plainville.

The 59-year old Christopher, and 81-year old pilot Charles Dundas, were both killed in the crash of the Mooney M20C in North Branford.

The pair were flying from Christopher’s hometown of Plainville to Francis S Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Christopher was scheduled to compete in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway that evening. The crash took place at about 1 p.m.

According to a preliminary report from the NTSB released recently, the plane went nose down through 75-foot pine trees in a heavily wooded area.

The NTSB report cited no findings of any mechanical issues with the plane at this point.

According to the Hartford Courant, the chief state medical examiner said Thursday that the cause of death for both Christopher and Dundas were accidental and caused by blunt trauma.

According to the NTSB report:

“Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane first struck 75-ft-tall pine trees in a steep descending attitude before coming to rest up against trees in a nose-down position on its right side. … The right wing separated from the fuselage at the wing root during impact, and was the first piece of wreckage discovered at the start of the debris path. The outboard 3 feet of the left wing was found 75 ft north of the right wing and was wrapped around a tree. The remaining fuselage, cockpit, left wing and tail assembly remained intact. The landing gear were in the extended position and the landing gear selector was in the down detent. The wing flaps were in the retracted position.

“The right fuel tank was breached during the accident and evidence of fuel was found on the trees and vegetation near the initial impact point. The left fuel tank contained approximately 7.5 gallons of fuel. Visual examination through the firewall indicated that the fuel selector in was in the left fuel tank position.

“The engine remained attached to the mounts and remained largely intact. All cylinders remained attached to the crankcase and there were no broken fuel lines or oil lines discovered at the scene. The engine oil was measured using the dip stick and it was at the full indication.”

At Stafford Motor Speedway Christopher competed weekly in the track’s premier division, the SK Modifieds. He had a division leading six victories at the track in 2017, with his last win coming on Sept. 8.

Christopher was known as one of the leading and most diverse short track drivers in America over the last three decades. He was the 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national short track champion. He also won the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.

Christopher was the all-time winningest driver at both Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway. His last career victory came in an SK Modified division feature at Thompson Speedway on Sept. 10, 2016. It was his 99th career victory at Thompson Speedway. He finished fourth in the SK Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway on Sept. 15, which proved to be the final event of his career.

Christopher’s No. 13, that he had driven regularly since starting his career at Stafford in 1983, was retired by the track on Oct. 1. He had 109 career SK Modified victories at Stafford Speedway and nine championships in the division. Overall he had 131 victories at Stafford since 1986. His next closet competitor on the all-time wins list at the track was Woody Pitkat with 77 victories.

In addition to running full-time at Stafford in 2017, he also competed full-time in the SK Modified division at Thompson Speedway in 2017 and was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut champion for 2017 for his efforts at both tracks this year.

He was the third winningest driver of all-time on the Whelen Modified Tour with 42 career victories in 372 starts dating back to the 1987 season. He was also part-time competitor in the SK Modified division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 2017, a track where he had 48 career victories.

Christopher long had a reputation for racing anything anytime. From local Midgets divisions, to SuperModifieds, to indoor events in Three-Quarter Midgets to competing twice at the top level of Sports Car racing at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He had made six career starts in NASCAR’s top-level Monster Energy Cup Series. He had 21 career starts in NASCAR’s second level Xfinity Series. In NASCAR’s regional K&N Pro Series East he had 10 career victories in 92 starts from 1990 to 2008.

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Comments

  1. The crash site description and 7 paragraphs of TC accomplishments boiler plate. Eliminating what isn’t the cause apparently. More information can be found in an article by the Hartford Courant including an overview of the pilot who was highly qualified and accomplished and 81 years old. So the question is did the autopsy reveal any physical event the pilot experienced that contributed to the crash?
    All is quiet on the Northeastern front as far as circle track racing goes. Or is it.
    One would guess Stafford is frantically working on their schedule making decisions that will say a lot about where they think touring series modified racing is going. Dare Stocks are Street Stocks and a few other minor changes in the rules but all the usual divisions seem to be advancing unchanged. Face it, the Speedbowl is wounded no matter what, Thompson is part time so Stafford rules the roost in Ct and arguably the Northeast.
    On Sunday November 19 at Hoosier Tire in Manchester Joe Lewandoski will conduct a meeting to discuss the formation of a touring series specifically for SK Light cars. Clearly rules will be at the top of the agenda. One would expect the meeting to be well attended and the discussion lively. Strictly crate means strictly difficult in bringing teams from all over with different rules and allowed crate modifications. Also important is where will this series appear in 2018 seeing as how schedules are being formulated now and they aren’t even off the drawing board yet. Not being a headliner where would they fit in. Expect limited appearances, rules flexibility and a strategy of gaining a following.
    The Speedbowl. The eye of a storm. The last news was they clammed up after the season releasing no information or accolades on winners or plans for the future only to update the site with a few sketchy articles highlighting division winners. So what’s the deal, will there be a season next year at the Speedbowl? A quick web search after all these months reveals zero new information on the criminal charges against the owner or any progress or even plans for selling the property.
    The WMT is formulating it’s schedule for sure. So what foreign lands will they send teams off to next year and is there any conceivable chance Waterford would appear on the schedule. Prospects remote bordering on laughable for many I would guess.
    Will the MRS hold it’s ground and the MTS with it’s new Hoosier Tire contract survive. Will the new American Modified Tour be born and where will it appear and who may it displace? Where will the popular and limited TTOMS pop up in 2018 and what excitement with big winners checks and free flowing promotion will they generate early on?
    No things are not quiet of the Northeastern circle track racing front at all. It’s just none of it is available for public disclosure so we wait.

    No it isn’t quiet on the Northeastern circle track racing front.

  2. Edited out of the NTSB report above is the orientation of the wreckage path.

    “The wreckage path was 170 ft-long and oriented on a north-northeast magnetic heading of 021°.”

    Combined with the fact that the landing gear was extended, it would appear that the plane had changed it’s flight path toward Riverhead and was looking for a place to land, possibly due to engine problems.
    No signs of fire and no evidence of rotational scoring on the propeller might indicate the engine was not running at time of impact.
    The final NTSB Report will provide the answers to the question. What happened?

  3. darealgoodfella says:

    The end of the ’17 season was awkward. There was a huge void.

    The start of the ’18 season will also be strange. It won’t be the same.

    It will take a while.

  4. Doug, without getting into a 1000 word dissertation, please enlighten me what exactly your post has to do with this article?

    Dareal, best post I have seen you pen in a while.

  5. wmass01013 says:

    No matter the cause, medical or mechanical it’s a great loss for Northeast racing and for Stafford!!

  6. The theory going around that I was hearing was that the plane ran out of fuel. So that’s debunked. As far as Waterford, (not that this story has anything to do with it), I heard from a reliable source that the maintenance guy or guys are going to be working all winter. Normally they are laid off until the beginning of the season.

  7. As a pilot of over 35 years the NSTB will have a final report nothing different here from any another accident aviation investigation. It will take about a full year. They were trying to land in a field just north of the crash site. The landing gear was down and they had a engine issue came up short of the open field and went into the pine trees, non weather related.

  8. Dareal
    Great comment brother

  9. George, is it a common practice for a 53 year old plane to be used for commercial flights?

  10. Other news outlets headlines are that it was ruled an accident. How can it be official if the investigation isn’t over yet?

  11. humphry-good point. I was trying to illicit some conversation about all the moving parts that are in play around this time of year like rich’s on Waterford and using this string to do it. Clearly it was a swing and a miss having no idea there were knowledgeable pilots to provide great commentary on the crash. If i could delete the post I would. And you’re right, I type too much and say too little.

  12. Rich,
    I think those headlines you are seeing refer to the findings announced Thursday by the state chief medical examiner that the deaths were ruled accidental. The NTSB investigation of the crash is ongoing.

  13. Hank Hill says:

    Doug your commentary is actually great. Don’t change. Speak your mind. It’s good to have on the posts and you bring good opinions and thoughts to the site

  14. Whatever the findings it was a tragedy I said it before he was the dale of short track racing.The people he put in the stands cheering or booing will be hard to find someone that could do that

  15. Thanks Hank Hill. You know if you can get past some of the juvenile stuff it’s amazing the information people can bring to the table if you just ask them.

  16. darealgoodfella says:

    Folks, don’t try to make more out of the little bits of information that have been let out. The NTSB will do a thorough investigation and report. It will take time.

    From reports and witnesses, there was no engine noise. The only sound people heard was the crash. Many things could have caused loss of power. If the aircraft lost power, many things could have caused that. When an aircraft is out of power, if it did not achieve sufficient altitude and air speed for adequate glide speed over the necessary distance to an emergency landing site, it can stall and fall out of the air if the pilot does not maintain minimum airspeed. It was a nice day, weather does not seem to have been a factor.

    As an engineer that has been involved in these sort things, my advice is do not speculate, just wait for the report.

    This is far different than post race tech checking for travel limited shocks, thin walled drive shafts, light weight carbs, and flux capacitors. This is big league, the likes of which most of you have never seen.

  17. And on a racing note, Matt Hirschman continues to win….

  18. Hank, please don’t enable him. The article is about the findings of the death of one of the great legends in modified racing. Let’s stay on point here and not muddy the waters. There is an enormous hole that has been created and frankly, I still get sick every time I even think about it. The racing community will take a very long time to heal.

  19. Seems to me we talked about the Waterford situation plenty. A deal where strong feelings regarding entertainment collided with real world evil, allegedly so far anyway. Much of that conversation right up to now was based on ignorance and assumptions with most including myself making silly conclusions. Intertwined with ignorant and simplistic comments and my failed initial diversion are those that stick out as authoritative like GerryD and George’s. Ones that stick out as knowledgeable based on substance and not claims of qualifications. My vote is keep them coming.

  20. darealgoodfella says:

    Doug wrote: “And you’re right, I type too much and say too little.”

    I agree.

  21. “George, is it a common practice for a 53 year old plane to be used for commercial flights?”

    I’m not George, but…

    – The report states this was a personal flight. The pilot owned the airplane, and it’s very common for people to give rides to friends, and the pilot is allowed to receive reimbursement for a percentage of costs of the flight. Many commercial and airline pilots own personal aircraft, and fly them for personal, non-commercial flights.

    – Aircraft are either airworthy in legal terms or not. Calendar age isn’t really relevant, unless a specific model has a stated life limit. However, there are plenty of old aircraft operating commercially all over the world. Every year, any airplane that is flown is subject to a stringent inspection, with refurbishment done as necessary. Small airplanes operated in commercial service, not that this one was according to the NTSB, are subject to the same inspections every 100 hours of flight time. There are separate inspections for instruments, engines, and safety gear required at varying calendar or operating hour intervals.

  22. darealgoodfella says:

    What Barry said. There are extremely old aircraft flying. If that bothers the general public, they wouldn’t fly if they knew how old the planes are.

    As long as the aircraft is airworthy, it is airworthy. The General Aviation class, such as the Mooney, Cessna and Piper Cub have some extremely old aircraft flying. There are very strict inspections to preempt failures. Go to an airshow and you’ll be amazed at the old, airworthy aircraft. And these aircraft are used for commercial purposes.

  23. Daphony Engineer 11/3
    “The end of the ’17 season was awkward. There was a huge void.
    The start of the ’18 season will also be strange. It won’t be the same.
    It will take a while.”
    Daphony Engineer 7/17/17
    ” Have you seen his audition tapes for replacing TC as the Tour Clown? Muffed a restart at Loudon, took out the field. Went in on the 6 on the last lap at Loudon, took out the lead cars, and just about every other close confines racing situation where he took out his car and those around him. I could go on and on. If his flux capacitor doesn’t keep the other cars away, he’s going down.”

  24. DaPhonyEngineer
    “This is far different than post race tech checking for travel limited shocks, thin walled drive shafts, light weight carbs, and flux capacitors. This is big league, the likes of which most of you have never seen.”

    This is a guy that spent the last year at the least berating, mocking, belittling Ted Christopher and here he serves up the most condescending, arrogant nothin muffin imaginable.
    DaPhonyEngineer is not a sincere observer of the technical details of a tragic plane accident. He’s a hanger on. He has not one iota of empathy or compassion for anything surrounding the event. He’s an opportunist and manipulator trying to be relevant to the weak minds like humphry.

  25. I’m sure that this is coincidence, a result of DaPhonyEngineers dozens of comments berating TC. And I’m not suggesting the NTSB be notified but the last sentence is curious.
    DaPhonyEngineer 9/9/17
    “TC fans can’t even spell their names correctly. SAD! BIGLY!
    jeffro, 8000 rubles is only $139. What kind of phone is that? Tin can and string? Yeah, they real popular with them Deplorables. It’s a new program to replace the Obamaphones.
    Something tells me that this is TCs last season of racing. Enjoy it while you can”

  26. In 1972 my father was killed in a mid air collision of two small planes coming back from an antique car show in Hershey, PA. He was a pillar of the community, an entrepreneur and I was charged with comforting my alternately weeping and disoriented mother in the aftermath as well as trying to make sense of it all to my young sisters. I know the misery of this tragic event and know a phony. This guy DaPhonyEngineer is a phony, a manipulator and a thoroughly reprehensible person. He more then any here does not deserve to comment on the hallowed ground of any discussion of Ted Christopher with his self serving, egocentric motives and his record of thorough contempt for Christopher as a man and competitor.

  27. darealgoodfella says:

    Doug stated: “And you’re right, I type too much and say too little.”

  28. Someone might have been curious. Why DaPhonyEngineer did you say this would be TC’s last season. And why when you have spend a year trashing him are you the fountain of attributes now. PHONY MANIPULATOR and Humphry’s hero.

  29. Hey DaPhoneyEngineer do you even know what a flux capacitor does in the fictional context. Over and over we have to hear that and I’m pretty well convinced you haven’t a clue. Explain genius unless you are a coward.

  30. Hey DaPhoneyEngineer how are the Speedbowl predictions working out for you. A suggestion. Epic fail.

  31. darealgoodfella says:

    Doug wrote: “He more then any here does not deserve to comment on the hallowed ground of any discussion of Ted Christopher with his self serving, egocentric motives and his record of thorough contempt for Christopher as a man and competitor.”

    Doug, you have left more off-topic scat behind in this hallowed thread than exists in a dairy barn and hog farm.

    Get some fresh corn flakes.

  32. Guys, maybe before y’all continue with the endless battle of wits or whatever you need to do-at least move it to another thread. Please?
    I bet there are a few readers out here that really knew & loved TC that probably find some of this comment string strangely self serving and disrespectful to the memory of Ted Christopher.

  33. darealgoodfella says:

    Doug says, “Thanks Hank Hill. You know if you can get past some of the juvenile stuff it’s amazing the information people can bring to the table if you just ask them.” all while he selfishly spews profoundly off-topic, like a juvenile, and totally disrespectfully in a thread reporting on the death of a beloved modified racer.

    Doug, please stop doing this to this thread and yourself.

  34. darealgoodfella says:

    Doug wrote: “And you’re right, I type too much and say too little.”

  35. darealgoodfella says:
  36. Have to second this. Shawn’s article was an update about a tragic plane crash that took the life of the pilot and passenger. Does this really need to turn into a “mine’s bigger column”? No. Please Shawn, end this now for the people who want to read about local racing and what affects it, not blabber between two people.

  37. darealgoodfella says:

    Mazdaj, it’s really only one person blabbering. As he does on just about every thread. He has totally dishonored and disrespected the late, great TC.

  38. darealgoodfella says:

    Mazdaj, go read the very first post to this thread. All of it.

  39. True.

  40. Mazdaj
    Please dont.comment
    You.no.nothing!!!!

  41. darealgoodfella says:

    You can keep up with this incident, right from the source, at NTSB.gov.

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