A twin-engine Cessna 335 crashed last Sunday about 10:40 a.m. local time as it approached Florida’s Palm Beach County Park/Lantana Airport. The 335 is an unpressurized version of Cessna’s once-popular Cessna 340.
The pilot was last heard on a common traffic advisory frequency indicating he was making his turn to base leg for landing on runway 16. A few seconds later, the airplane hit the ground a mile northeast of the airport and was destroyed by a post-crash fire that claimed the lives of the two people aboard, pilot Philip Castronova and his wife Mandy. Weather at the time of the accident was reported as good visibility with light winds from the southwest.
As if digging into the cause of the accident was not going to be tough enough for investigators since the aircraft most likely was not carrying a flight data recorder, nor would it have been required to under Part 91, but a reporter for the Palm Beach Post, Alexandra Seltzer, received a tip from an unnamed pilot about the status of Castronova’s pilot certificate. Following the lead, Steltzer learned that Philip Castronova’s did not hold a valid pilot certificate. In fact, the FAA reported Castronova’s certificate had been revoked in September 1997, for making fraudulent or intentionally false statements on his application for a medical certificate.
The Post reporter also learned that, “Just months before, the FAA had suspended his license for 180 days for a variety of violations, including flying in poor weather without the proper credentials and not having a current medical certificate. He also didn’t give his certificate to an FAA inspector when requested, didn’t listen to air traffic controllers and operated his plane in a careless or reckless manner, records show.” FAA records seem to indicate that Castronova never attempted to get his pilot certificate or medical back after the 1997 revocation. His wife also did not hold a pilot certificate of any kind.
The final data point recorded for the accident on Flight Aware indicated the aircraft was 400 feet above the ground flying at 117 knots, but with a vertical descent rate of nearly 1,000 fpm.