May 25, 2009, Daytona Beach, Fla., Aero Commander 500S


The airplane was substantially damaged following a partial loss of engine power and collision with terrain at 0846 Eastern time during a forced landing shortly after takeoff. The private pilot was seriously injured, and the pilot-rated passenger was killed. Visual conditions prevailed.

About one minute after takeoff, the pilot reported “an engine failure” and announced his intention to return for landing. Witnesses reported the engine noise from the accident airplane as “surging;” one witness described a “radical” turn back to the airport. Two witnesses stated only one engine was running. They added that the engine was “revving,” and would then “conk out” before revving up again. As the engine surged, the airplane would “shuffle left and right.”

The fuel system had a capacity of 226 gallons, was serviced through a single port on top of the left wing, and its tanks were interconnected to a center fuel sump feeding both engines. Investigators found the fuel cells were intact and contained only trace amounts of fuel. The airplanes drain petcock was opened at the center fuel cell sump, and one quart of fuel was drained. The sample appeared clean, containing trace amounts of sediment and water.


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