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.
April 19, 2021, Tatum, Texas
At about 1346 Central time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain during a test flight. The solo pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
The flight’s purpose was to do a functional test of a newly upgraded autopilot system. Six minutes after takeoff, radio and surveillance communications were lost. Retrieved ADS-B data show the airplane climbed to the east, leveled at 2750 feet msl and then descended to 2675 feet. There were no other data points recorded. The accident site was located directly east, about ¾ mile from the last recorded data point. The airplane impacted terrain in a nose-down, vertical attitude.
April 20, 2021, Eufaula, Ala.
Cessna 182M Skylane
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1515 Central time when it was forced-landed in a field following total loss of engine power. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
While en route, the pilot chose to divert to a nearby airport for a restroom break. Shortly after turning toward the divert field, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power. Unable to reach any of the nearest airports, he selected a field for landing and touched down, but the airplane struck a fence, nosed over and came to rest inverted.
An FAA inspector later stated there was no evidence of fuel, no evidence of fuel spillage and no odor of fuel at the scene when he arrived. When recovered from the site, the airplane’s wings were removed. The recovery supervisor found that the airplane contained no fuel and that there was no odor nor evidence of fuel spillage at the scene.
Several days later, the divert airport’s manager was escorted to the accident site by a local police lieutenant, where she found and photographed blighted vegetation in the area beneath the right fuel tank cap where the airplane had rested inverted. The earth beneath the blighted vegetation was turned with a shovel and a strong odor of aviation gasoline was detected.
Following recovery, the damaged propeller was removed and replaced, and a can of aviation gasoline was plumbed into the airplane’s fuel system. The engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, passed a magneto check and ran until it was stopped using cockpit controls.
April 20, 2021, Brownsville, Tenn.
Piper PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV
At 2052 Central time, the airplane was destroyed when its pilot apparently lost control in poor weather. The student pilot/owner and the passenger were fatally injured. Unknown weather conditions were encountered.
Earlier, the student pilot/owner’s flight instructor met to discuss the flight. He estimated the student pilot had about 90 flight hours of experience and had appropriate endorsements for the route and the airplane. The flight instructor expected the pilot to depart no later than 1300 or 1400, due to expected weather and night conditions.
Retrieved ADS-B data show the student pilot departed at 1720. At about 2050, the pilot advised ATC he was initiating a VFR descent. The controller advised the pilot of moderate precipitation “starting now [and] lasting all the way” to the destination, accompanied by IFR conditions at nearby airports.
At 2051:20, the airplane’s altitude was about 7300 feet msl and groundspeed was 165 knots. By 2052:17, the airplane had turned right and headed south, its altitude had descended to about 6700 feet and groundspeed slowed by 20 knots. The airplane then entered a rapidly descending and accelerating right 360-degree spiral, reaching a maximum groundspeed of 247 knots. At 2052:47, the final data point was recorded about ¼ mile northeast of the accident site, at 1450 feet MSL and 224 knots groundspeed. The accident site was discovered the next morning.
A 2055 weather observation about 10 miles west of the accident site included an overcast ceiling at 1200 feet AGL, visibility five miles in mist and wind from 350 degrees at 18 knots. According to Leidos Flight Service and ForeFlight, there was no record of the pilot filing a flight plan or requesting an official weather briefing via telephone or online.
April 21, 2021, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Lake LA-4-200 Buccaneer
The airplane sustained substantial damage at about 1410 Pacific time when it was landed off-airport following engine failure. The solo pilot suffered minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the ferry flight.
The pilot later stated he had recently purchased the airplane and was ferrying it home. At his second fuel stop of the day, he filled the tanks and took off. The airplane had climbed to about 200 feet AGL when the engine experienced a partial loss of power. The airplane began to vibrate and the pilot could audibly detect a loud noise from the engine area. He noted that the manifold pressure appeared normal but engine rpm fluctuated.
The pilot performed remedial actions but could not restore power, and was unable to maintain altitude. After determining he would not be able to make it back to the airport, he elected to land on a road. As he approached the road, he observed powerlines and decided to touch down on the adjacent desert terrain. During the emergency landing, the airplane collided with a sign and the airplane nosed over, coming to rest inverted.
This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.
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Interesting that the C182M accident investigators made no mention on the condition of the fuel bladders. Wrinkles are a well known issue with this model.
More student pilot killing unsuspecting passengers. Maybe those advocating the elimination of unsupervised solos have a point.