Saranac Lake, NY Commuter Flight Crash, Jan 1992


Saranac Lake, NY. (AP) -- DEAN A. MONTANA of Warners seemed to want to fly before he could say the word airplane, his family remembers.
MONTANA worked fueling planes to pay for flying lessons, and he named one of his show horses "Top Gun," after the movie about hotshot pilots.
He was pursuing his dream of becoming a commercial pilot Friday morning when he got into the cockpit of a commuter plane. Less than an hour later, MONTANA died when the plane crashed into a hillside on its approach to the Adirondack Airport at Saranac Lake.
MONTANA, 23, was co-pilot of the Plattsburgh-based commuter flight, authorities said. An off-duty maintenance worker for CommutAir, CLAYTON M. HARRELL, 29, of Colonie, also died in the crash.
Two others on board were injured when CommutAir's twin-engine Beechcraft 1900-C airplane crashed in mountainous, wooded terrain about 3 miles northeast of the airport at about 6:15 a.m., authorities said.
The two survivors were the plane's pilot KEVIN ST. GERMAIN, 30, of Plattsburgh, and one passenger, MOHAMMOD ABDUL MOMEN, 36, of Plattsburgh, said Cheryl Breen, a spokeswoman for the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.
ST. GERMAIN was in serious but stable condition after undergoing surgery at the medical center for multiple fractures of both legs, said a nursing supervisor. MOMEN suffered a fractured hip and was in stable condition in the intensive care unit, Breen said.
The flight left Plattsburgh at 5:30 a.m. and was going to Saranac Lake, then on to Albany and Newark, N.J., said John Sullivan, president of CommutAir.
Sullivan's partner spoke to ST. GERMAIN Friday after his surgery, and the pilot was apparently puzzled about the crash, as the instrument approach appeared normal, Sullivan said.
Although the National Transportation Safety Board and others are investigating the cause, the pilot's statement could indicate a problem with the instrument landing system in the plane or on the ground, Sullivan said.
Weather reports were good and visibility was above minimum requirements, and the plane cleared inspection the night before, he said.
"It's a practically new aircraft with a very experienced crew going into an airport they'd gone into hundreds of times before," he said.
DEAN MONTANA, who was raised in Onondaga County and often stayed at his mother's house in Warners, began flying at age 16, said his brother, Mike Montana.
"He wanted to fly since ... since he could talk," Mike Montana said.
After graduating from West Genesee High School, DEAN MONTANA attended flight safety school in Florida, his brother said. The pilot, who also kept an apartment in Plattsburgh, was not married.
DEAN MONTANA flew for Mohawk Airlines before starting work for CommutAir just over a year ago and his dream was to fly commercial airliners, said his brother.
When DEAN MONTANA talked about the possibility of a plane crash, he told his family that most pilots are too busy to panic, Mike Montana said. While he had watched training films on crashes DEAN MONTANA seemed to feel that this worst-case scenario couldn't happen to him, his brother said.
For a co-pilot, DEAN MONTANA had racked up more flight hours than average with about 2,500 hours to his credit, Sullivan said. The pilot, ST. GERMAIN, was CommutAir's most senior captain with 8,500 hours of flight time, and he had the highest level of commercial license, he said.
Everything was normal when ST. GERMAIN called in five minutes before the plane was scheduled to land, Sullivan said. When the plane didn't land as expected, CommutAir sent out another plane, which spotted the wreckage, he said.
A state police helicopter carried the survivors from the remote area, according to a state police report.
MOMEN arrived at the medical center at 10:15 a.m., and ST. GERMAIN was brought in at 11:15 a.m., Breen said.
Investigators are hoping to start examining wreckage and the site today, said Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Post Standard Syracuse New York 1992-01-04