November 9, 2007, McFarland, Calif., Piper PA-60-602P Aerostar


At about 1200 Pacific time, the airplane collided with terrain in a citrus grove during an attempted emergency landing. The private pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.

A review of the communications reveals the pilot requested to divert to Bakersfield, Calif., for a “fuel stop.” At 1127, the airplane began a descent from FL210. At 1155, the ATC tower at Bakersfield received a radio call from the airplane, declaring an emergency due to engine problems. Witnesses near the accident site observed the airplane flying southbound, with the wings rocking side to side, until the airplane rolled to the right before impacting the citrus grove.

Subsequently, the employee who refueled the airplane was interviewed. When he arrived at the airplane hangar, the pilot had already pulled the airplane out of the hangar, and the airplane was parked on a slope. He estimated that the left wing tip was 12 to 14 inches lower than the right wing tip. He said that the pilot was very concerned about getting as much fuel in the airplane as possible. The Approved Flight Manual for the airplane includes a note stating, “The wing tanks are extremely sensitive to attitude and if not level, they cannot be fueled to the full usable capacity.”


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