February 1, 2019, Atlantic Ocean
Piper PA-32RT-300 Lance II
At about 1315 Eastern time and about 20 miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla., radar contact was lost with the airplane. The private pilot and passenger were presumed fatally injured and the airplane to have been destroyed on impact. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan was in effect for the flight, which departed West Palm Beach, Fla., for Marsh Harbour, The Bahamas.
As the airplane was vectored to avoid “cells” and “areas of heavy precipitation,” the controller queried the pilot about his inability to maintain assigned headings. The pilot reported that his autopilot “had kicked off” and that “the winds are really weird up here.” At about 1310, the airplane slowed to about 70 knots groundspeed on a northeasterly heading before it began an accelerating 90-degree right turn to the south. By 1313, the controller again asked, “…appears you’ve turned back to the northwest and…are you going to turn back eastbound?” The pilot replied, “I don’t know what’s going on up here. I’m working on instruments…acting really goofy here.” Shortly thereafter, the airplane turned and descended from a northerly heading sharply to its right. The radar track tightened to the right as the target rapidly descended, then disappeared at about 1315 in an area that depicted heavy precipitation.
The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search for the airplane by sea and by air over an area of 1115 square miles without success. After 36 hours, the search was suspended on February 3, 2019.
February 1, 2019, Socorro, N.M.
RANS S12 Experimental LSA
The airplane collided with an unoccupied helicopter and a light pole at about 1355 Mountain time during takeoff. The solo private pilot succumbed to his injuries seven days after the accident. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The pilot had recently purchased the airplane. Visual conditions prevailed.
A 1353 automated weather observation about 51 nm south of the accident site included winds from 160 degrees at 12 knots gusting to 20 knots.
February 2, 2019, Knotts Island, N.C.
At about 1700 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing. The commercial pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
According to the pilot, he was performing a post-maintenance test flight. He said the airplane had about 22 gallons of usable fuel prior to takeoff. The pilot took off and remained in the airport traffic pattern, conducting several landing approaches. He then departed the pattern and conducted flight maneuvers for about 30 minutes, after which he turned east toward the Outer Banks Barrier Islands. While eastbound, he experienced an electrical problem and turned around, heading for the airplane’s base airport. Shortly thereafter, the electrical system failed, followed by the engine. The pilot attempted a restart but was unsuccessful and made a forced landing in a marsh.
According to the operator, the pilot was advised to remain in the traffic pattern of the local airport, considering how much maintenance was recently performed. Examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have prevented normal operation. About one cup of uncontaminated fuel was drained from the fuel system and the fuel selector was found in the open position. Both fuel caps were inspected and the fuel cap gaskets were intact. Both wing fuel tanks were empty of fuel, and there were no signs of fuel leakage.
February 3, 2019, Yorba Linda, Calif.
Cessna 414 Chancellor
The airplane experienced an in-flight breakup at 1345 Pacific time. The private pilot and four individuals on the ground sustained fatal injuries; two individuals on the ground sustained serious injuries. The airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed over the accident location, while instrument conditions were nearby.
During the takeoff clearance, the tower air traffic controller cautioned the pilot regarding deteriorating weather, about four miles east. The airplane took off and made a left turn to the east. By 5 minutes after takeoff, the airplane had climbed to about 7800 feet agl before it started a rapid descending right turn.
Numerous witnesses saw the airplane exit the clouds in a high-speed descent before parts started to break off. One witness “observed an aircraft emerge from the overcast layer on a northwesterly heading with a nose down pitch of approximately 60 degrees, pointed directly at my location with no discernible movement. It remained in that attitude for approximately 4 to 5 seconds before initiating a high-speed dive recovery. Approaching the bottom of the recovery, the aircraft began to roll to its right. As it did, the left horizontal stabilizer departed the aircraft, immediately followed by the remainder of the empennage. The left wing then appeared to shear off just outside of the number one (left) engine, igniting the left wing. After which, the aircraft disappeared behind the hill to the northeast of the observed location, trailing flames behind it. The sound of an explosion and large plume of black smoke immediately followed.”
February 5, 2019, Desert Hot Springs, Calif.
At about 1815 Pacific time, the airplane impacted mountainous terrain while en route. The commercial pilot and the passenger received fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed. Undetermined night conditions existed at the impact location at the time of the accident.
The flight had departed Thermal, Calif., with North Las Vegas, Nev., as its destination. When the airplane was about 10 miles northwest of Palm Springs, Calif., at 3500 feet msl, according to radar data, the pilot requested VFR flight following, and reported he was following California Highway 62.
While northbound, the airplane climbed to 4100 feet, then descended until radar contact was lost. The airplane came to rest on a steep hillside about 300 feet west of Highway 62 and about 500 feet above the highway. The 1815 automated weather observation about 20 miles northwest of the accident site included winds from 240 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 19 knots, and scattered clouds at 900 feet agl.
February 6, 2019, Aurora, Ore.
Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage
The airplane collided with terrain at about 1530 Pacific time while on short-final approach. The private pilot and flight instructor were seriously injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.
The purpose of the flight was to practice commercial pilot maneuvers. On returning to the airport, the flight instructor and the pilot briefed a practice power-off 180-degree landing as they entered the traffic pattern. When the airplane was abeam the 1000-foot runway markings, the pilot reduced power to idle and started a left turn toward the runway. He stated that he realized the airplane was probably not going to make the runway; he last recalls the airplane turning sharply to the left, as he was pulling on the control yoke, and adding right rudder input.
February 8, 2019, Atlantic Ocean
Convair C131B Samaritan
At 1216 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it was ditched in the Atlantic Ocean about 32 miles east of Miami, Fla. The captain was fatally injured; the first officer was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the international Part 135 cargo flight, which departed Nassau, The Bahamas, at 1113.
Earlier in the day, the crew had flown the airplane to Nassau. During that flight, the left engine’s propeller stuck at 2400 rpm, although the flight was completed. At the start of the accident flight, the crew assessed the earlier problem with the electric prop controls to be resolved. Climbing through 4000 feet, however, the left propeller once again stuck at 2400 rpm. The captain took control and tried to stabilize the power on both engines, leveling off at 4500 feet msl. The remainder of the flight was normal until they began a descent—the right engine suddenly backfired and began to surge. The crew feathered the right propeller and shut down the engine. No more than two minutes later, the left engine backfired and began to surge. Soon, they were forced to ditch.
February 8, 2019, Vero Beach, Fla.
Piper PA-28-161 Warrior/Cadet
The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted a utility pole and trees during a forced landing at 1706 Eastern time. The solo private pilot was uninjured. Visual conditions prevailed.
While practicing touch-and-go landings, the pilot noted engine roughness on final approach and advised ATC he would be making an emergency landing. He retracted flaps and lost total engine power at about 500 to 600 feet agl. Unable to reach the runway, he executed a forced landing on a nearby gravel road. During the landing, the airplane impacted a utility pole, trees and shrubs. The right fuel tank was impact-damaged and leaking while the left fuel tank was full.
February 8, 2019, Diablo, Calif.
Mooney M20F Executive 21
At about 2010 Pacific time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain. The solo student pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed for takeoff, with a planned destination of Lincoln, Calif.
An FAA Alert Notification was issued for the missing airplane after a family member reported it overdue. The wreckage was located the next day by hikers about 1000 feet below and -mile southwest of a mountain summit of 3849 feet. Preliminary radar data indicate the airplane departed and made a climbing left turn to the northeast. All major components were present at the accident site.
February 10, 2019, Laramie, Wyo.
Lancair IV-P Experimental
The airplane experienced a windscreen failure at about 1600 Mountain time and diverted to a nearby airport where the pilot made an uneventful landing. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.
The airplane was cruising at 15,500 feet msl and about 235 knots when the pilot heard a loud “bang” as the windscreen suddenly blew out of the airframe. The pilot slowed and lowered the landing gear to stabilize the airplane. He diverted and made an uneventful landing.
February 11, 2019, Richmond, Ind.
Beech 400A Beechjet
At about 1006 Eastern time, the airplane collided with ground objects and terrain following a landing overrun. The airline transport pilot and first officer plus the single passenger were uninjured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Instrument conditions prevailed; the flight operated on an IFR flight plan.
Beginning the night before the accident flight and continuing that morning, both the captain and the F/O later said they checked weather several times before the flight but did not recall anything about runway conditions. The crew opted to fly a GPS approach to 5500-foot-long Runway 24. Weather observed at the destination included -mile visibility under a 1500-foot ceiling with scattered clouds at 300 feet. Wind was from 090 degrees at four knots—a four-knot tailwind—and the temperature/dew point were the same: zero degrees C.
The crew flew a coupled approach to just above minimums when they saw the runway, which appeared to have a “very light coating of snow.” The crew touched down and applied full reverse thrust, plus spoilers and maximum braking, but the airplane failed to decelerate, rolling off the end of the runway and across a road before coming to rest. After the accident, the pilot reviewed Notams again on his iPad-based EFB and saw on the first line that the airport was closed.
February 23, 2019, Winter Haven, Fla.
United Consultants UC-1 Twin Bee
At about 1243 Eastern time, the amphibious airplane impacted a residence shortly after takeoff. The flight instructor was fatally injured, the commercial pilot receiving instruction sustained minor injuries and there was one serious ground injury. The airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.
According to the pilot receiving instruction, the instructor briefed a practice engine failure shortly after takeoff and, at about 200-300 feet agl, reduced the throttle on the left engine. It stopped producing power, and the propeller feathered. A witness watched the airplane fly overhead as the left propeller stopped rotating. The crew identified the failed engine, then the instructor took the flight controls and selected a forced landing site. Restart procedures were unsuccessful, and they determined that the airplane would not reach the selected forced landing site. The instructor then chose a lake to the airplane’s left as an alternate site. During the left descending turn, the airplane slowed, the left wing dropped and the airplane impacted a house, seriously injuring one of its occupants.
February 23, 2019, Mansfield, Mass.
Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1225 Eastern time when it impacted terrain during a go-around. The flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
After performing maneuvers away from the airport, the airplane returned for landing. Witnesses and airport surveillance video show the airplane remained in a landing flare over approximately 2800 feet of the 3503-foot-long runway before the attempted go-around. The airplane entered a steep, climbing right bank before slowing and descending in a spiral to the ground.
February 28, 2019, Atlantic Ocean
Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six 260
The airplane was ditched in the Atlantic Ocean about 25 nm east of West Palm Beach, Fla., at 1352 Eastern time. The solo private pilot was uninjured. The airplane was not recovered and is presumed to be substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed for the flight from Fort Pierce, Fla., to Freeport, The Bahamas.
According to the pilot, all fuel tanks were filled before takeoff. After about 15 minutes cruising at 3500 feet msl, the pilot initiated a climb to 7500 feet but the engine started to “sputter.” The pilot performed several remedial actions, but the engine soon lost all power. He advised ATC he was ditching, turned into the wind and extended full flaps. After landing in the water, the pilot egressed without incident onto the airplane’s wing and deployed a life raft; the airplane subsequently sank and was not recovered. The pilot activated a personal locator beacon and was rescued.
February 28, 2019, Shreveport, La.
Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1039 Central when it impacted a river shortly after departure. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane departed on an IFR flight plan at 1037 in daytime instrument conditions.
According to preliminary ATC information, at 600 feet in the initial climb, ATC cleared the flight to continue climbing on a heading but the airplane then entered a continuously left turn through 740 degrees. While in this turn and climbing out of 1400 feet msl, the airplane’s altitude began to oscillate between 725 feet and 1900 feet. The airplane then made a decelerating turn to the right and quickly descended, with the last recorded ATC data indicating a groundspeed of 31 knots and an altitude of 575 feet msl. The airplane impacted a river and came to rest in about 17 feet of water.
Safety In Numbers
The NTSB recently updated its aviation accident statistics to include calendar year 2016 data. The chart at right is from that data and presents the defining event initiating an accident for fixed-wing Part 135 on-demand operators for that year.
The good news is no one died from the most common accident cause. The bad news is that our old “friends” LOC-I and CFIT also figure prominently.