Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ERA21FA308

Pensacola, FL, USA

Aircraft #1




The airline transport pilot and two passengers were departing from the pilot’s home airport for a cross-country flight. According to the pilot, the weather was hot, so he was expecting the takeoff roll to be longer than normal, about 2,000 to 2,500 ft of the 3,225ft runway. The density altitude was computed to be about 2,300 ft, and the airport elevation was 32 ft. After the preflight inspection and engine runup, which the pilot stated were normal, he commenced the takeoff roll. The pilot stated that shortly after rotating, beginning the initial climb, and retracting the landing gear, the engine rpm decreased from about 2,600 to 2,300 rpm, and the airplane was unable to maintain altitude in level flight. As a result, he maneuvered for an off-airport forced landing, during which the airplane impacted a tree and a security fence. A postcrash fire ensued, resulting in significant thermal damage to the engine and its components. Witnesses described that during the takeoff the airplane appeared slow, used more runway than normal for takeoff, and lifted off near the end of the runway. Additionally, a witness reported that the engine sounded “a little rough.” Postaccident examination of the wreckage, which included a complete engine disassembly, revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. As a result, the reason for the partial loss of engine power could not be determined from the available evidence.

Factual Information

On July 29, 2021, about 1428 eastern daylight time, a Ryan Navion A, N114ST, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Pensacola, Florida. The airline transport pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. According to the pilot, who was also the owner of the airplane, the airplane departed from his home base, Ferguson Airport (82J), Pensacola, Florida, and he planned to fly to Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida (about 350 nautical miles away). The pilot stated the airplane was 180 pounds under maximum gross weight (with a useful load of 876 pounds) and that the temperature was “at least 94°F” (the postaccident-computed density altitude was about 2,300 ft). The preflight inspection, engine runup, and associated magneto checks yielded normal results, and the flight control checks were accomplished without any anomalies detected. The pilot calculated that the airplane would need between 2,000 and 2,500 ft of runway to take off. The pilot stated that, during the takeoff roll, the airplane’s acceleration appeared to be “okay” and that the takeoff roll was longer than normal, as he expected. All engine indications and temperatures appeared in the normal operating range. After rotation and initial climb, the pilot retracted the landing gear. According to the pilot, once the gear was up, the engine rpm started decreasing from 2,600 to about 2,300 rpm; the manifold pressure remained normal. When the airplane was at an altitude of about 200 ft mean sea level, the airplane could no longer maintain level flight and descended. The pilot made a right turn to attempt a forced landing on a school’s running track. At the completion of the turn, the pilot realized that the airplane would not make it to the track and told his passengers to brace for impact. The pilot left the landing gear retracted so that he could maintain the airplane’s airspeed. The airplane impacted a tree and a 6-ft-tall chain-link security fence before impacting the school’s parking lot and coming to rest there. A postimpact fire ensued immediately after impact. Witnesses at 82J stated that during the takeoff roll, the airplane engine sounded “rough” and appeared slow. They had previously observed the airplane taking off before but this time it used nearly the entire length of the 3,325 ft runway before becoming airborne. Security camera video from the school showed the airplane from left to right during its initial climb, before the airplane was no longer visible on the video. About 45 seconds later, the video showed the airplane from right to left on the school property. The airplane was in a nose-high pitch attitude and its wings were level during impact. Another on-site security camera captured the postimpact fire. The video showed that the postimpact fire burned for about 10 minutes before being extinguished. The trees and a chain-link security fence were at an elevation of 28 ft and on a heading of about 305°. The paved school parking lot was about 3/4-mile southwest from the departure end of runway 18 at 82J. Wreckage debris and broken tree limbs were scattered along a path that was about 100 ft long and oriented on a magnetic heading of about 310°. The wreckage site was compact, and the engine, airframe structural components, and flight control surfaces were accounted for at the scene. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit. The fuel tanks were breached during impact. The postimpact fire consumed the inboard half of the right wing, the cockpit, including the instrument panel; and sections of the aft right side of the engine compartment. The accessory section of the engine was extensively heat damaged. Both propeller blades showed little evidence of polishing or chordwise scraping. The propeller spinner was slightly damaged on one side and exhibited little rotational damage. The spark plugs showed no anomalous damage or degradation when compared with the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug chart. Both left and right magnetos showed impact and thermal damaged, and the internal components exhibited grinding when manually rotated. All internal components appeared to be well lubricated. The oil filter was cut open, which revealed that the pleats were burned, but no ferrous material or other foreign debris was discovered. No metal or material was discovered in the oil sump or engine case. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no indication of a preimpact mechanical failure or anomaly that would preclude normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

A partial loss of engine power during the initial climb, which resulted in a forced, off-airport landing and impact with trees and a fence.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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