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, 2021, Poplar Bluff, MO
At about 1215 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a precautionary off-airport landing. The solo pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
The airplane carried a communications radio but lacked a navigation receiver or a transponder. Instead, the pilot navigated via ded-reckoning and by following roads, with occasional reference to a sectional chart on his mobile phone, although a portable aviation GPS was available. Nearing his destination, the phone’s battery died and the pilot was unable to power up the portable GPS. He maintained heading and soon arrived over his destination but could not locate the airport. After several attempts to find the airport, the pilot estimated he had 10 minutes of fuel remaining. He selected a field and landed, but before coming to a stop, the main landing gear dug into the terrain and the airplane flipped onto its back. The pilot stated that the engine was running throughout the precautionary landing.
Examination revealed the airplane was equipped with a motorcycle battery, not one certified for aviation use. Nevertheless, testing of the airplane’s cigarette lighter demonstrated it was capable of powering either the phone or the portable GPS.
March 11, 2021, Franklin, N.C.
Cessna 421B Golden Eagle
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1953 Eastern time when it ran off the departure end of the runway during an aborted takeoff attempt. The pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
According to the pilot, pre-takeoff operations were normal. During the takeoff attempt, acceleration “lagged” at around 92 knots so he retarded both throttles and applied maximum braking. The airplane rolled off the end of the runway onto grass, continued down a slope and then through a fence before coming to rest. All occupants exited the airplane before a post-crash fire ignited. Examination revealed tire skid marks beginning around 1200 feet from the runway end.
March 15, 2021, Leadore, Idaho
Cessna T210M Turbo Centurion
At about 1030 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged in an apparent runway overrun. The pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
Shortly after landing on Runway 29, the pilot realized the “brakes were not effective.” The airplane veered right off the runway near the departure end and continued across airport property. It impacted a small berm and came to rest near a building. Examination revealed a pair of skid marks consistent with braking was found on the runway about 700 feet from the departure end. The skid marks continued off the runway and traveled through low sagebrush, over a small berm, through a barbed wire fence and ended near the wreckage, which was about 420 feet from the departure end of the runway.
March 15, 2021, Monroe, GA
Socata MS.894A Rallye
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1514 Eastern time when its engine cowling separated. The solo pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.
While level at 2500 feet MSL, the engine cowling suddenly separated and struck the right side of the windscreen, leaving a large hole. The pilot struggled to regain control and determined the airplane was not able to maintain level flight, even with full engine power. The pilot performed an off-airport landing to a field, where the airplane struck trees during the landing roll. The engine cowling was located near where the airplane touched down. The pilot believed that the cowling had been lodged on the empennage and only dislodged when he landed. The pilot later advised Socata Rallye Service Bulletin 107 and AD 76-11- 02, both regarding the cowling, had been complied with.
March 15, 2021, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Beechcraft B36TC Turbo Bonanza
At about 1459 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with a vehicle and the ground shortly after takeoff as a result of apparent engine failure. The private pilot and pilot-rated passenger in the airplane and a passenger in the vehicle were fatally injured. The vehicle driver sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.
A witness heard the engine runup and stated it was “sputtering, ‘like rough idle.’” He heard the propeller being cycled “a few times” and engine backfires when power was increased during each sequence.” Another witness observed the airplane in a “very low climb at a ‘very slow rate.’” The witness diverted his attention, and then heard the airplane’s engine suddenly fail completely. At that point, the airplane was about 100 to 200 feet past the departure end of the runway and at less than 300 feet AGL. The airplane entered a “gentle” right bank at the same pitch attitude, then “stalled,” spun and pitched nose-down before striking the vehicle and terrain. Video recordings reveal a post-crash fire began “about two seconds after the right wing contacted the ground.”
March 22, 2021, Valparaiso, Ind.
Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1230 Central daylight time when it landed short of the runway after both engines lost power. The two commercial pilots were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
While in cruise after 2.6 flight hours, the left engine lost power and was feathered, and the flight diverted to a nearby airport. While the airplane was on final to the divert airport, the right engine lost power and the pilot made a forced landing to a field, which damaged the fuselage. Examination revealed both auxiliary fuel tanks were empty. When each engine lost power, the pilots recalled the respective fuel selector was in the auxiliary tank position and the respective fuel gauge indicated more than a half tank of fuel remained.
This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.
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A cowl that came loose in flight after maintenance, a motor cycle battery in a C170A with an electrical failure in flight, a B36TC that attempted flight AFTER the engine clearly communicated a takeoff was a poor strategy, and another look here – no fuel! crash because pilots believed fuel gauges and likely didn’t bother to dip the tanks. Was the Darwin Effect on steroids last March?