NTSB Identification: CEN10FA324
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 17, 2010 in Ruidoso, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/24/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA T310R, registration: N310RH
Injuries: 5 Fatal,2 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane was on a visual flight rules cross-country flight and on approach to the airport. A witness, who saw the airplane when it was about 3 miles from the airport, described it as being high for a landing on the runway. He then said the airplane began a “gradual” descent, followed by a “rapid” nose-down descent before it went out of sight. Another witness stated that she saw the airplane suddenly go straight down. One of the passengers stated that, shortly before the accident, the wings were rocking and it felt like the airplane was “tossed around” by the wind. A postimpact fire ensued. An examination of the wreckage indicated that the airplane struck the ground in a 35-degree left bank and about a 52- to 57-degree nose down descent angle; the engines were operating at the time of impact. A postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any anomalies indicative of any systems problems prior to the accident. Given the statements of the witnesses, it is likely that the pilot, when he realized the airplane was high on approach, reduced the airplane’s airspeed and raised the nose in order to more rapidly decrease its altitude. The airplane then likely entered an aerodynamic stall, which would have caused the motion felt by the passenger as the airplane rapidly descended nose-down and began rotating before impacting the ground.

While the pilot was experienced in flying multi-engine airplanes, he only had 3.1 hours of flying experience in the accident airplane with a flight instructor and only 5 hours total time in the make and model. Although the investigation was unable to determine what role the pilot’s experience played in the accident, it is likely that his limited experience in the airplane contributed to his lack of airspeed maintenance.

The NTSB has long been concerned about the use of proper restraints in general aviation airplanes. In this accident, an adult and an 11-year-old child were belted in the front passenger seat together. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 91.107(a)(3) states that each person “must occupy an approved seat or berth with a safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness, properly secured about him or her during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing.” However, the regulation does not specify that all passengers occupy separate seats. On August 11, 2010, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation A-10-121 asking the FAA to “amend 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 to require separate seats and restraints for every occupant.” The Safety Recommendation is classified “Open—Unacceptable Response,” since the FAA’s proposed clarification of the rule does not discourage or prohibit the unsafe practice of allowing multiple occupants to share a seat and/or restraint system and does not provide clear guidance to general aviation pilots regarding seat belt and seating requirements.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot did not maintain proper airspeed on final approach for landing, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and impact with terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s limited experience in the airplane make and model.

Full narrative available

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