OCTOBER 1, 2018, LA VERNE, CALIF.
Beechcraft V35 Bonanza
At about 1150 Pacific time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain while approaching to land. The solo private pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. The airplane had been cleared to land on Runway 8R.
Witnesses reported hearing a noise and observed the accident airplane in a left bank that progressively steepened before the airplane impacted the ground in a left-wing-down, nose-low attitude. Shortly after impact, a fire ignited. The airplane struck a 50-foot-high tree about 900 feet from the runway’s approach end and about 185 feet left of the extended centerline.
OCTOBER 3, 2018, SMITHVILLE, TENN.
Piper PA-24-180 Comanche 180
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1730 Central time during a forced landing shortly after takeoff. The solo private pilot was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
According to the pilot, he was delayed about 10 minutes by traffic before completing the engine run-up and takeoff roll with no anomalies noted. After the pilot lifted off and retracted the landing gear, the engine stopped producing power about 300 feet above the runway. There was no time to perform remedial actions to restore power, so the pilot lowered the landing gear and touched down on the remaining runway. The airplane went off the departure end of the runway, down an embankment and across a road before coming to rest upright 384 feet beyond the runway’s departure end in low brush.
Fuel was present in both wing tanks and throughout the fuel system. Both magnetos produced spark at all towers. Weather reported about 14 miles east of the accident site included a temperature of 28 degrees C and a dew point of 21 degrees C, for a relative humidity of 65 percent. According to an FAA Icing Probability Chart, the atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident were “conducive to serious icing at glide [idle] power.” The accident flight was the first flight following an annual inspection.
OCTOBER 4, WAGONER, OKLA.
Cessna 210-5 (205A)
At about 1830 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it collided with trees after a total loss of engine power. The solo private pilot incurred minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.
The flight was the first after the airplane’s annual inspection. The pilot made three circuits around the airport; the airplane performed well and all flight parameters were normal. After leaving the airport area, a very minor “engine misfire” caught his attention. All engine parameters appeared normal but the “engine misfire” began to increase and the engine began to shake. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude and, after multiple attempts to regain power, the engine quit. The pilot slowed the airplane to minimum controllable airspeed and impacted trees and brush. The pilot exited the airplane and waited for emergency services.
OCTOBER 5, 2018, STONEWALL, MISS.
North American Navion A
The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1445 Central time during a forced landing to a highway after a total loss of engine power. The solo private pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.
After taking off at 1438, the pilot was in cruise flight at 3500 feet msl when the engine sputtered. He turned back toward the departure airport, but the engine stopped producing power. Unable to glide to any airport, the pilot elected to land on a highway and set up for an emergency landing to the south. Trying to fit into highway traffic, the pilot bled off too much airspeed and the airplane landed hard on the highway. The landing gear collapsed and the airplane slid about 200 feet, coming to rest upright in the right lane.
OCTOBER 6, 2018, FANCY GAP, VA.
Piper J3C Cub
The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain at an unknown time. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight.
The airplane was reported overdue at around 2220. The next day, the accident site was discovered about 95 miles into the 131-mile flight, along the route between the departure and destination airports, which have been a 172-degree course. The accident site was at 2766 feet msl, about 150 feet below a summit. Weather recorded at 1135 about nine miles northwest of the accident site included broken clouds at 1200 feet agl, broken clouds at 1700 feet and an overcast at 9000 feet. The weather observation facility’s elevation was 2694 feet msl. All major components of the airplane were located in the vicinity of the wreckage. The debris path was oriented on a 320-degree heading.
OCTOBER 8, 2018, GRASS VALLEY, CALIF.
Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II/III
At 1100 Pacific time, the airplane experienced a loss of engine power during cruise flight and was force-landed to an open field. The solo student pilot was not injured but the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.
Prior to departure, the left fuel tank was full, with the right filled “to the tabs.” The plan was for a “round-robin” cross-country flight, with intermediate landings and takeoffs at six different airports before landing back at the departure airport. Total planned distance was 205 nm. The airplane was not refueled during the flight. About five miles from the next-to-last airport, at 5000 feet msl, the engine sputtered. The pilot cycled the fuel pump and attempted to restart the engine without success. Unable to glide to the nearby airport, the pilot maneuvered to an open field. The nose landing gear collapsed on touchdown, and the airplane came to rest upright in the open field.
OCTOBER 9, 2018, CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO.
Van’s RV-6A Experimental
The airplane veered off the side of the runway and nosed over while landing at about 1050 Central time. The private pilot was fatally injured and the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.
Witnesses reported the pilot lost control of the airplane during a crosswind landing and veered off the side of the runway. The airplane nosed over and came to rest about 1750 feet from the runway’s approach and about 25 feet off the right side.
OCTOBER 12, 2018, POOLVILLE, TEXAS
Piper PA-32RT-300 Lance II
At about 1608 Central time, the airplane was destroyed during an in-flight breakup and collision with terrain. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Marginal visual conditions prevailed. The flight originated about 1326. Its intended destination wasn’t known.
The airplane wreckage was distributed in a northeast direction for about 3600 feet. The left wing was found about 500 feet and 320 degrees from the main wreckage. The airplane’s left fiberglass wing tip was located about 3500 feet from the main wreckage. Various other components were distributed in a triangle-shaped pattern formed by the location of the main wreckage, the left wing and the left wing tip.
OCTOBER 12, 2018, MIDLAND, TEXAS
The airplane impacted a parking lot while descending under its airframe parachute at about 1045 Central time, following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries; the airplane was substantially damaged. Daytime instrument conditions prevailed for the flight.
According to the pilot, shortly after departure and at about 500 feet agl, the engine “surged.” The pilot turned back toward the airport, but the engine lost power. The pilot recognized the airplane would not make it back to the airport, so he deployed the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). The airplane descended under the parachute into a parking lot and impacted a parked automobile.
OCTOBER 12, 2018, CULPEPER, VA.
Van’s RV-8 Experimental
At about 2000 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.
The accident airplane was half of an aerobatic team participating in an airshow. The full flight sequence was planned to last about five minutes. The two performers were in the middle of their routine when the accident occurred. A video showed both airplanes completing a double aileron roll maneuver. Both airplanes were observed in a shallow descent and, after the maneuver was completed, the lead airplane began to climb while the accident airplane entered an inverted dive, which continued until it collided with terrain.
OCTOBER 13, 2018, WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y.
Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II
The airplane was substantially damaged when it experienced an in-flight breakup at about 1100 Eastern time and impacted the Atlantic Ocean. The flight instructor, the private pilot receiving instruction and a passenger were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight requested VFR flight following with a planned climb to 8500 feet msl. The airplane continued to climb, however, and as it climbed through 15,700 feet, ATC advised that other aircraft in the area were reporting IMC and asked the flight to confirm it was in visual conditions. The pilot responded that they were “trying to maintain VMC” and that the attitude indicator was “unreliable.” The controller declared an emergency on behalf of the airplane and suggested a heading toward VFR conditions. The flight asked ATC for the height of the cloud tops and was told the last top reports were at 19,000 feet. The flight replied that the airplane would be climbing to 19,000 feet.
The airplane continued on a southeasterly heading, and its crew reported “VFR on top” and unable to descend below the clouds. The flight requested vectors to visual conditions and the controller instructed the airplane to turn west, but the airplane continued southeast. About two minutes later, after the controller repeated the instruction to turn west, the airplane entered a figure-eight turn and began to descend rapidly. Radio and radar contact was lost shortly thereafter. A witness reported seeing the airplane “nosedive” out of the clouds and into the ocean. A second witness saw two large pieces of the airplane descending from the sky. The airplane came to rest in 20 feet of water on the ocean floor. A portion of the right wing was recovered floating above the airplane about mile offshore.
OCTOBER 13, 2018, PAYSON, ARIZ.
Cessna TTx Model T240
At about 1845 Mountain time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted a house while on approach to landing. The private pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.
Radar data revealed a primary target correlated with the accident airplane on a right downwind leg for Runway 24 at about 900 feet agl and 107 knots groundspeed. About 0.75 miles from the approach end of the runway, the airplane started a right turn at about 700 feet agl and continued the turn through the base leg. Groundspeed decreased to 60 knots as the airplane continued to turn. The primary target continued to maneuver in what appeared to be an extended downwind before starting another right turn to the base leg at about 650 feet agl and 94 knots. The data indicate the airplane made a final 180-degree turn near the approach path for the runway at 625 feet agl and 81 knots. The final turn was in the vicinity of the accident site and is where the radar target was lost.
OCTOBER 16, 2018, CANONCITO, N.M.
Cessna 182P Skylane
The airplane collided with terrain at about 1622 Mountain time during a forced landing. The commercial pilot and his pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed at the accident site.
The flight was in cruise at FL190. At 1608:25, the pilot reported descending through 14,600 feet msl to 10,000 feet. At 1612:19, ATC advised that the airplane was on a southerly track and to turn to 080 degrees to resume a direct course. After some heading deviations the pilot attributed to weather, the pilot reported “a little bit of precipitation here” while descending to 9000 feet. Shortly after, the pilot reported the engine had failed. The controller pointed out Interstate 40 at “nine to ten miles.”
At 1617:33, the pilot told ATC, “and I’ve got my power back with the carb heat sir.” At 1618:14, the pilot told ATC, “…I think we will be okay” and was cleared direct to the destination airport about 14.5 nm away. Slightly more than three minutes later, the pilot told ATC, he was “back to having my problems with the engine.” The airplane was descending through 7600 feet to the east-southeast, away from the destination airport. Shortly, the pilot advised ATC, “…I don’t know what’s going on, I’m gonna pick a dirt road down here somewhere….” Then, at 1621:34, the pilot said, “the engine just came back on.” At 1621:37, ATC told the pilot the Interstate was about 3.5 nm directly ahead. There was no response. Recovered GPS data recorded the airplane’s final position at 5922 feet msl—about 300 feet agl—and about 671 feet from the initial impact with terrain.
A nearby air ambulance was vectored by ATC to investigate, discovered the wreckage and landed at the accident site less than 10 minutes after it occurred. The helicopter pilot reported a ceiling at about 1800 feet agl with surface visibility of about eight miles in light rain, and an outside air temperature of about five degrees C. The medical crew proceeded to the wreckage and confirmed there were no survivors.
The helicopter pilot observed several pieces of mixed ice on the ground below the leading edge of the accident airplane’s left wing—rectangular, 12-18 inches long, 4-5 inches high, and to 3 / 8 inch thick.
OCTOBER 25, 2018, ATLANTIC OCEAN
Piper PA-31T Cheyenne
At about 1119 Eastern time, radar contact with the accident airplane was lost, and it is presumed to have impacted the Atlantic Ocean. The commercial pilot and four passengers were not found and are presumed fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the IFR flight to Eleuthera, Bahamas.
After takeoff, the airplane was cleared to FL250 and established a consistent 500 fpm climb on course. When the airplane was about 95 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., and climbing through FL243, the pilot made a garbled radio transmission indicating he was diverting to Charleston. The airplane began to descend at about 1000 fpm but didn’t turn around. After several ATC requests, the pilot replied, “We’re descending”. About 15 seconds later, at an altitude of about 23,500 feet, the airplane turned sharply left as its descent rate increased to greater than 4000 fpm. About 50 seconds later, the pilot transmitted “Emergency, emergency” and the airplane’s callsign. No further transmissions were recorded. The last radar position (32.3184N 78.0661W, or about 100 nm east-southeast of Charleston) was recorded at 1119.
A search effort was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard; one airplane reported an oil sheen on the water near the last known coordinates, but neither the airplane nor debris were located. The search effort was cancelled on October 27, 2018.
Safety In Numbers
The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 27th Annual Joseph T. Nall Report was recently released. It takes a close look at general aviation accidents occurring in 2015.
At right, we’ve adapted and reproduced a chart from that report, which highlights the trend in pilot-related accidents, as distinct from mechanical or other causes. Despite leveling out briefly in 2014, the trends seem to be improving. The 2016 data will tell us more.