NTSB Identification: WPR12TA323
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Monday, July 23, 2012 in Elko, NV
Aircraft: AERO COMMANDER 500 S, registration: N535SA
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.
On July 23, 2012, about 1745 Pacific daylight time, an Aero Commander 500-S, N535SA, was substantially damaged during an off-airport forced landing near Elko, Nevada, due to the complete loss of power in both engines. Neither the pilot nor the observer was injured. The public-use flight was operated by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as an air-attack coordinator for aerial forest firefighting activity. The airplane was owned and piloted by Spur Aviation of Twin Falls, Idaho. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight plan was filed for the flight.
According to the observer, who was a BLM employee, the flight departed Elko International Airport (EKO) about 1315, and flew to the vicinity of the fire, located about 15 minutes east of EKO. Interagency Dispatch Center records indicated that at 1319, the pilot radioed that they were airborne, with 4 hours 30 minutes of fuel on board. The airplane loitered in the vicinity of the fire and the observer coordinated the air attacks. About 1730, the pilot notified the observer that they had to depart the fire locale for a return to EKO, and shortly thereafter, the airplane turned on course for EKO. While en route to EKO, at a point which the observer estimated was 4 to 5 minutes away from EKO, the engines started "surging," and the pilot then decided that due to distance and terrain considerations, he would land on a road instead of attempting to return to EKO. Interagency Dispatch Center records indicated that about 1744, the flight radioed that the pilot was planning to land on a road, and that they would need assistance controlling road traffic. About 1751, the flight radioed that they had landed on the road and the occupants were uninjured, but that the airplane was damaged.
Dispatch records indicated that the airplane was pushed clear of the road about 1830. According to information provided by first responders, the airplane landed on a straight section of road about 2,300 feet long, at a location about 6 miles southeast of EKO. The landing site elevation was about 5,300 feet above mean sea level. The outboard sections of both wings were damaged by impact with road signs; the airplane was otherwise undamaged. Personnel from the FAA, BLM, and the United States Department of Interior (DOI) examined the airplane 2 days after the event. They reported that a total of about 1 gallon of fuel was recovered from the airplane.
FAA information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1972, and was equipped with two Lycoming TIO-540 series piston engines. Spur Aviation held a 14 CFR Part 135 operating certificate. The pilot held multiple pilot certificates and ratings, and was appropriately certificated and rated for the accident airplane make and model. The pilot's records indicated that he had a total flight experience of about 16,800 hours, including about 1,500 hours in the accident airplane make and model. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in April 2012, and his most recent flight review was completed in May 2012.
The EKO 1756 automated weather observation included winds from 330 degrees at 8 knots with gusts to 17 knots; visibility 10 miles; few clouds at 11,000 feet; temperature 24 degrees C; dew point 12 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.13 inches of mercury.
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