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.
December 11, 2021, Bermuda Dunes, Calif.
Van’s RV-3 Experimental
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1230 Pacific time when its pilot apparently lost control and collided with terrain after a possible engine failure. The solo pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
According to a friend, the pilot planned to overfly the pilot’s home. A witness observed the airplane in a descending right turn, with a windmilling propeller. A second witness observed the airplane flying normally from north to south at a very low altitude. The airplane rolled until one wing pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down, and then descended in a steep nose-down angle.
December 11, 2021, Temecula, Calif.
Beechcraft K35 Bonanza
At about 1455 Pacific time, the airplane was substantially damaged during an off-airport landing following a loss of power. The solo pilot was not injured.
About eight minutes after takeoff, while cruising at about 3000 feet MSL, the engine started to lose power. The pilot switched tanks and activated the fuel pump but could not restore power. The pilot maneuvered the airplane to land on a golf course but aborted the approach due to individuals on the fairway. He then elected to make a forced landing in a nearby vineyard. According to the NTSB, “He intentionally kept the landing gear retracted to minimize any entanglement with the wire that was used to support growing the grape vines.”
December 12, 2021, Inola, Okla.
The airplane was destroyed at about 0931 Central time when it collided with terrain following a rapid descent. The solo pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the ferry flight.
The owner hired a pilot/mechanic to ferry the out-of-annual airplane for maintenance. Before the accident flight, the pilot/mechanic taxied back to parking from the runway due to “a miss on the right engine” and performed an extensive engine run-up. About 20 minutes later, the pilot told ATC he was “ready to go and try it again.” The pilot took off and was cleared to an altitude of his discretion. At 0932:36, ATC terminated radar services and approved a frequency change. At 0932:43, ATC radioed the pilot and there was no response.
Preliminary ADS-B data show the airplane climbed to 5800 feet MSL and, about one minute before the accident, made a left turn and began a rapid descent to terrain. Examination of the wreckage revealed the left and right throttles controls were full forward, the left propeller lever was in the feather position and the right one was full forward. Both mixture controls were full forward.
December 16, 2021, Knoxville, Tenn.
Cirrus Design SR22
At about 1007 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain after a wake turbulence encounter. The instrument-rated private pilot was fatally injured and the passenger received serious injuries.
The pilot had been conducting practice approaches and was asked by ATC to extend his downwind for an Airbus A320 on a three-mile final. The pilot advised ATC the traffic was in sight and subsequently turned base approximately 1.8 miles behind the Airbus. At about 1.5 miles out on final approach, at 1000 feet, radar contact was lost.
First responders reported the pilot had third-degree burns but was alert, conscious and responsive to verbal commands. The pilot stated he encountered wake turbulence on short final. When the airplane rolled inverted, he activated the ballistic parachute, adding that the airplane “hit the ground and burst into a fireball.”
December 25, 2021, Iron Mountain, Mich.
Lancair IV-P Experimental
The turbine-powered airplane was substantially damaged during on off-airport landing following powerplant failure. The pilot and the passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.
During initial climb, at about 450 feet AGL, an annunciator light indicated a starter-generator failure. The pilot noted that the engine sounded quieter and airspeed was decreasing. He increased the throttle, confirmed the number one fuel pump was on and ensured the left fuel tank was selected. By this time, the engine had lost all power. The pilot established best glide speed and found a clearing in the trees. During the descent, the airplane impacted several trees, touched down on rough terrain and came to rest on its belly. The aft fuselage, right wing and engine were fracture-separated from the airframe.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.
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“The pilot stated he encountered wake turbulence on short final. When the airplane rolled inverted …”
When I was an Instructor, I took some aerobatics just in case a student figured out a way to roll an airplane on me. (So that I wouldn’t panic, and would know what to do to recover.)
I like to think that, having purposely rolled inverted and rolled back right-side-up, that, in a wake turbulence encounter (or mountain wave encounter) I would know what to do. In fact, I have read of at least one pilot (ex-military IIRC) who was rolled inverted on short final in a spam can and rolled out of it (same direction) in time to land safely. (Was chewed out by the tower for performing low level aerobatics.)
I suppose, like stalls, one never knows if one will do the right thing when close to the ground, even if one is seasoned in the proper recovery. Seems like a 3-screen Simulator would be good place to try to become used to the “ground in your face” feeling of being inverted 400 feet off the ground.
Without any acro training or practice doing half rolls back to upright in your airplane, success is unlikely. Getting the nose above the horizon is critical to breaking descent. Half roll back to upright inputs in my (aerobatic) airplane require full deflections of stick forward and lateral matching aggressive rudder. Flaps down would add to drag challenge and amount of forward stick required.
Not recommending practicing this unless you have a qualified instructor in an aerobatic aircraft (which still doesn’t answer the question of inputs req’d for your aircraft unless it’s aerobatic) with plenty of altitude. Most folks lose a lot of altitude rolling an airplane until they figure out how critical nose above the horizon is to any rolling maneuver.
Accepting the roll back all the way back to upright or breaking it and breaking descent to do a controlled roll back upright are game day decisions…and neither may be successful down low. Better to avoid the set up that puts you there.
Good points. We didn’t have an inverted oil system in our Glasair. So except for a quick roll (at reduced power), I couldn’t learn the required nose attitude to hold altitude while inverted. I figured that, if I were rolled, some forward stick was better than none.
But I hadn’t thought about flaps. Yikes! And while, perhaps, one could try flying inverted in a 150 Aerobat with the flaps down, I’m guessing that that is probably not approved in the Handbook.
As for avoiding wake turbulence – agreed. Although as with stalls and engine failures, we practice for the worst.
I suppose I should count myself blessed for never having flown into a vortex. While the rules of thumb for wake turbulence avoidance generally apply, it’s the odd one that can get you. I have read reports of wakes lasting 5 minutes on calm summer evenings.
I was safety pilot with a buddy practicing IFR in Newark/NYC airspace when we crossed an Air Carrier’s wake at 90 degrees. (The jet was 1000′ above.) Even at altitude, where wakes aren’t supposed to be as strong, it was a powerful, memorable experience.