AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause on the NTSB’s website at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.
March 9, 2020, Big Lake, Alaska
Cessna 172N Skyhawk
The airline transport pilot was attempting to depart a snow-covered runway in a wheel-equipped airplane. On his first attempt, the airplane failed to generate enough airspeed, so he aborted the takeoff and exited the runway. For the second attempt, he elected to start the takeoff roll on a taxiway via a 90-degree turn to enter the runway. Just before entering the runway, however, he encountered uneven terrain and the airplane veered to the left, impacting a snow berm and sustaining substantial damage to the right wing.
In his NTSB report, the pilot listed several ways the accident could have been prevented, including parking the airplane and waiting for a snow plow to clear the runway. In addition, he indicated that he was fatigued and his judgment and decision-making abilities were compromised.
March 11, 2020, Sterling, Mass.
Cessna 177RG Cardinal RG
At about 1430 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
Several witnesses observed the airplane’s takeoff roll and initial climb, which appeared and sounded normal. As the airplane reached midfield, the engine “coughed.” Engine noise then decreased and sounded as if it was “running rough.” The airplane’s nose lowered slightly, and the engine noise briefly increased, before decreasing and running rough again, a cycle that repeated two or three times, during which the landing gear retracted into the fuselage. As the airplane crossed over the departure end of the runway, its wings rocked back and forth slightly in a “very nose high” attitude. The left wing then “dipped” and the airplane began a left turn. One witness stated it appeared the airplane then “started a cartwheel, and then just fell.”
The airplane impacted a wooded bog about 200 yards from the runway’s departure end, about 25 yards to the right of an extended centerline. Evidence at the scene was consistent with a near-vertical descent. The engine was largely undamaged, and flight control cable continuity was verified. Both the flaps and the landing gear were retracted. One propeller blade was bent slightly aft; neither blade exhibited leading edge damage or chordwise scratches. Both the left and right fuel filler caps were secure and intact. Both fuel tanks were undamaged, and each contained about three ounces of fuel.
March 17, 2020, Conway, S.C.
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1545 Eastern time when its solo private pilot activated the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). There no injuries injured. Instrument conditions prevailed; the airplane was operating on an IFR clearance.
While maneuvering for an ILS approach to his divert airport, the pilot later reported he “had trouble stabilizing the instruments, adding that it felt like he was ‘fighting [the airplane]’ in the roll axis.” Realizing he had let the airplane get too slow, he attempted to correct but felt the airplane was getting away from him. He concluded he likely was in an unusual attitude and activated the CAPS. Touchdown occurred on all three landing gear, but the nosegear collapsed.
March 25, 2020, Waxahachie, Texas
Cessna T210N Turbo Centurion
At about 1655 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged after it lost engine power shortly after takeoff and collided with terrain. The solo private pilot sustained serious injury. Visual conditions prevailed.
Witnesses observed the and reported the engine did not sound like it was making takeoff power. The airplane reached 50-100 feet AGL, started a right turn, and then made a hard left downwind turn. The airplane then descended in a nose-down attitude and impacted terrain, cartwheeling before it came to rest upright.
The airplane’s mechanic helped the pilot sump several cups of water from the fuel tanks before the accident flight. The lineman who refueled the airplane stated the pilot was sumping the tanks while he was present. The pilot told him he had drained a lot of water from the fuel tanks.
Following the accident, an FAA inspector drained two sump cups full of contaminants and water from the left header fuel tank and 12 sump samples of water from the right header fuel before fuel was observed. The engine’s fuel injection system contained water, “a thick grey paste” and a fine sand-like material. There was no odor or indication of avgas in the fuel divider. The airplane had been flown less than 10 hours since September 2016, and had been stored outside for three years.