General Aviation Accident Bulletin

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Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents

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 in the NTSB’s website at Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at

November 1, 2018, Willow, Alaska

Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser

At about 1700 Alaska time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during a forced landing. The solo commercial pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

Just after takeoff and during initial climb, all engine power ceased, accompanied by “three pops like a backfire,” according to the pilot. He switched fuel tanks and turned on carburetor heat, but the engine failed to respond. Faced with the decision to land in a river or trees, the pilot selected the trees. During the forced landing, the airplane sustained substantial damage to its wings and fuselage.

A friend of the pilot subsequently stated this was the first flight following engine maintenance to correct excessive magneto drops and a cold cylinder. The engine’s spark plugs had just been reinstalled following removal and cleaning.

November 8, 2018, Ontario, Calif.

Cessna 182P Skylane

The airplane lost engine power and landed on a freeway at 1553 Pacific time. The airline transport pilot, commercial pilot and passenger aboard were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the forward fuselage during the landing. Visual conditions prevailed.

After flying south through the Cajon Pass at 6500 feet MSL, the airplane turned west and encountered what the commercial pilot presumed was leeside turbulence from the mountain range. She turned back south to find smoother air but the turbulence became more severe and the airplane began to descend rapidly. As the airline transport pilot struggled to change frequencies in the turbulence, the airplane descended to 2000 feet MSL (about 500 feet AGL). The commercial pilot applied full power but the engine did not respond. After the airline transport pilot enrichened the mixture and applied carburetor heat, the engine momentarily regained power. At about 2300 feet MSL, the engine again lost power, and the ATP decided to land on the westbound lanes of a freeway. As he attempted to avoid a vehicle, the airplane landed hard.

November 9, 2018, Walton, N.Y.

Cessna 310R

At 1502 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Day instrument conditions prevailed.

While en route at 7000 feet MSL, at about 1459, the pilot told ATC, “I need to get on the ground immediately.” Controllers advised the closest airport was due north from the airplane’s position. There were no further intelligible radio transmissions from the pilot. At 1500:21, the airplane descended to 6550 feet MSL, slowed from 200 to 151 knots and began a turn to the northeast. At 1500:36, the airplane was flying northeast, had descended to 5100 feet and was at 196 knots groundspeed. The last radar data, at 1500:50, showed the airplane about 1.8 nm from the initial impact point with terrain at 7350 feet, heading 308 degrees and at 151 knots groundspeed.

A witness reported hearing engines revving up and down for about a minute. She then saw an airplane “overhead” and reported seeing a column of smoke trailing the airplane and observed a “red orange glow” originating from under the right wing. The airplane flew out of view; she then heard a loud explosion and subsequently observed a plume of smoke originate from where the airplane had just flown.

The airplane sustained extensive impact damage, and evidence of a post-impact fire was observed. Neither engine cowling displayed thermal damage or sooting. All six propeller blades displayed varying levels of leading-edge gouging, blade polishing and s-bending.

November 9, 2018, Guthrie Center, Iowa

Piper PA-28-236 Dakota

The airplane collided with terrain at about 1715 Central time. The private pilot, student pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.

Around 1700, the Des Moines International Airport (DSM) departure controller observed a radar target squawking the 7700 transponder beacon code about 40 miles west of DSM. Controllers were able to establish contact with the student pilot who reported he was diverting to a nearby airport because the private pilot who was flying the airplane was having a “heart attack.” No other communication from the airplane was received directly by ATC, although pilots of two aircraft that had departed DSM advised ATC they were able to communicate with the pilot and reported he was now going to attempt a landing at a different airport. By 1730, the airplane had not landed at either airport.

The wreckage was located the following morning. Examination revealed a two-inch-long crack in the engine’s aft exhaust muffler. The inner surface of the muffler heat shroud was coated in sooty tan and grey deposits. Similar deposits were also present on the inner surface of the cabin heat hose that ducted air from the shroud to the cabin heat distributer box assembly. Toxicology testing revealed elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the blood of all occupants.

November 10, 2018, Wildwood, N.J.

Mooney M20C Mark 21/Ranger

At about 1530 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing immediately after takeoff. The private pilot was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, the left fuel tank contained about 21 gallons of fuel, and the right fuel tank contained about three gallons. The fuel selector was positioned for the right tank and remained there for the startup, taxi, runup and takeoff. A video recorded by a witness revealed the airplane’s landing gear was fully retracted about seven seconds after liftoff. About eight seconds later, the engine began to sputter and then ceased operation. After another six seconds, with about 1700 feet of runway remaining, the airplane began a descending turn to the right and impacted a drainage ditch. Examination revealed there was no fuel in the right wing fuel tank. There was an undetermined quantity of fuel in the left wing fuel tank.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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