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St. Petersburg Times
By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 19, 2003
TAMPA – Bruce Reviere thinks his brother, Scott, knew he would die in the plane the two spent five years building in a garage. “He did the inside all in crushed velvet and satin, and the (instrument) panel was wood grain,” Bruce Reviere said Tuesday. “I asked him why he wanted to set it up that way, because it looked so much like a coffin. We laughed about it.”
Scott Reviere, 39, of West Tampa, and John Malecki, 59, of Town ‘N Country, did die in the single-engine aircraft on Aug. 18, 2002, when it spiraled into the concrete wall of a dry dock at the Port of Tampa.
Now, 15 months after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board has disclosed two findings that might have played a role: the weight of the two men in the plane and prescription drugs found in Scott Reviere’s system.
While NTSB investigators stopped short of saying that either factor caused the crash, they found nothing structurally wrong with the airplane, and the weather was good. The agency will pinpoint the cause of the crash in a final report to be issued later.
According to available records for Reviere’s Vans RV6A airplane, its maximum operating weight was 1,850 pounds, which includes fuel, oil, passengers, baggage and the aircraft itself. Scott Reviere’s last known weight was 280, and Malecki’s was 200. If they had no baggage with them, the weight of the plane at takeoff would have been 1,824 pounds, just 26 pounds short of the maximum.
In addition, a urinalysis done at the Federal Aviation Administration’s research laboratory in Oklahoma City found that Scott Reviere had two antidepressants in his system, Elavil and Paxil. The FAA considers both to be psychotropic drugs that, if disclosed as required on the pilot’s application for a medical flight certificate, would have been disqualifying.
Bruce Reviere said his brother had taken similar medications for years to treat migraine headaches. His doctor had switched prescriptions shortly before the crash, Bruce Reviere said, to allow his brother to keep flying. In any event, according to the NTSB, a history of migraine headaches alone is enough to ground a pilot. Scott Reviere had a private pilot’s license. Malecki had a more advanced commercial license.
Bruce Reviere said the two men had gone flying that morning so Malecki could instruct Scott on how to handle the in-flight emergency of an engine quitting on takeoff. An engine failure is simulated in flight by throttling the engine back to idle.
The NTSB’s description of what happened next conforms largely with what Bruce Reviere knew of his brother’s intentions.
Scott Reviere flew the plane from Plant City Municipal Airport to Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands, where Malecki got on. The plane took off to the south, flew about a mile, and then, with Scott Reviere in control, apparently began the practice maneuver. He made a U-turn and headed back to the airport.
Witnesses said they heard the engine power up when the plane was about 25 to 50 feet above the runway, suggesting the practice run with the engine at idle had ended, and Scott Reviere intended to climb.
Flight instructors say making a 180-degree turn, as Scott Reviere and Malecki evidently did to begin their practice run, is not accepted practice for aircraft operating without power at low altitudes, because the sharper a turn, the more altitude is lost. As a result, flight instructors teach pilots to try to find an emergency landing site that is more or less straight ahead. Trying to get back to the airport is inadvisable unless the plane has a lot of altitude to play with.
After Reviere’s plane powered up again, the NTSB report said, it began a steep climb. The plane started a left turn and then turned right out over the water. The plane then went into a steep spiral descent and crashed.
The Reviere brothers operated a heating and air-conditioning company in Tampa before the accident. Bruce said he had to close it because his brother was the license-holder. He is trying to sell the property.
“Scott was about a year older than me, and we did everything together,” he said. “This has just turned my life upside down.”