NTSB Identification: CEN13FA044
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 04, 2012 in Stotts City, MO
Aircraft: CESSNA 310, registration: N6BS
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
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 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.
On November 4, 2012, approximately 1800 Central Standard Time, N6BS, a twin-engine Cessna 310 airplane, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees and terrain near Stotts City, Missouri. The commercial pilot and the pilot rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot rated passenger. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from the Monett Regional Airport (HFY), Monett, Missouri, approximately 1735, and was destined for a private airstrip in Miller, Missouri. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the repositioning flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to a witness, who was a friend of both pilots, he said the airplane’s right engine was recently overhauled and this was the first flight after the new engine was installed. He said the pilots had originally planned to fly to Miller on November 2nd, but had to postpone the flight because the left main landing gear brake was “soft” during the engine run-up. The witness, who was also a pilot, said that in addition to the left main landing gear brake problem, the nose landing gear strut was also flat. According to the mechanic, who was hired to overhaul the engine, the pilot rated passenger asked him if he would fix the nose gear. The mechanic told him it would take at least a day to do the repair. Since the owner planned to fly the airplane to Ohio later that week for a corrosion inspection; he told the mechanic he would have the gear fixed then. In the meantime, he would have to fly with the landing gear extended or “stiff-legged” because he was concerned the gear would get stuck in the nose well. As a temporary fix, the mechanic used shop-air provided by the Monett Airport manager to inflate the nose strut.
The witness said the flight was re-scheduled for November 4th and he met both pilots at the Monett airport around 1700. During the preflight inspection, the pilots noted the nose gear strut was flat again and there was another discussion about keeping the gear extended for the flight. The witness said the two pilots boarded the accident airplane, started the engines, and taxied toward the runway. The airplane stopped on the taxiway and the engines were run-up three or four times. He said the pilots then taxied back to the hangar and shut the engines down. The commercial pilot got out of the airplane and said the right engine was not “feathering” and it needed to be fixed. The pilot rated passenger called the same mechanic and asked him if he could look at the problem. The mechanic arrived 30-40 minutes later and opened the right inboard cowling on the right engine. About five minutes later, the mechanic said they were, “Good to go.”
According to the mechanic, the pilot rated passenger called him at 1648 and told him that the right propeller control lever was not moving smoothly through its full range of travel. There was no mention that the propeller was not feathering. The mechanic said he was surprised that they were planning to do an engine flight test at night. About 30-40 minutes later he arrived at the Monett airport and opened up the right inboard cowling for the right engine. The mechanic asked one of the pilots to move the propeller control lever in the cockpit through its full range of travel. The mechanic said the arm on the propeller governor moved smoothly from stop to stop as the lever was moved. He told one of the pilots to adjust the friction lock for the lever, which eased the tightness of the lever. He also noticed the nose gear strut was flat again.
The witness said he heard the two pilots discussing if they should postpone the flight because it was getting dark. They originally were going to make a few circuits around the traffic pattern before they flew to Miller. However, since they were delayed they agreed to just fly to Miller.
The witness said the pilots got back in the accident airplane;the pilot rated passenger got in the front left seat and the commercial pilot sat in the front right seat. Both engines started normally. The airplane taxied toward the runway and did another long engine run-up on the taxiway, which included cycling the propeller several times. The witness also noted that only the airplane’s beacon lights were turned on.
The mechanic provided a similar account of the engine run-up and also confirmed that only the beacon lights were turned on.
After the accident airplane departed Runway 18, the witness departed in another airplane and followed them to Miller.
The mechanic said that he was surprised when he saw the airplane heading north toward Miller because he thought they were going to stay in the traffic pattern to test the engine. He then called his assistant, who lives at the private airstrip in Miller, and told him that the accident airplane was headed that way.
In an interview, the assistant said he received a call from the mechanic at 1738. He was surprised that anyone would attempt to land on an unlighted grass airstrip at night. The assistant said that by the time he and his girlfriend walked over to the runway, he could see the airplane approaching from the west. Only the airplane’s beacon lights were turned on and he could not tell if the landing gear were extended because it was too dark. The airplane was approximately 500-800 feet above the ground and in a level flying attitude. The assistant said both engines sounded normal and there was “nothing indicating any distress.” The airplane then made a smooth right turn toward the south and maintained a constant altitude. As the airplane turned south, the assistant said he got a call from the owner of the airstrip and asked if he would bring a fire extinguisher out to the airplane when it landed. The assistant said he grabbed a nearby extinguisher, but the airplane never returned.
According to the witness, once he departed Monett airport, he established communication with the other pilots via a common air-to-air traffic frequency and made visual contact with the accident airplane. While en route, the witness noted that the accident airplane was not on course for the private airstrip. The pilot rated passenger asked if they were heading in the right direction and the witness said they needed to correct 20-30 degrees back to the left. Shortly after, the pilot rated passenger said that “fuel or oil” were coming out of the right engine. He asked the witness to arrange for a fire extinguisher to be available when they landed, which he did. A few minutes later, the pilot rated passenger asked the witness where the private airstrip was located, and the witness told him they were "right on top of it". The pilot rated passenger said they informed him that they were losing oil pressure and were returning to Monett, followed by, “We shut the engine down.” The witness responded, “Ok, I’ll follow you.” At this time, the witness said the accident airplane was turning from crosswind to downwind approximately 800-900 feet above the ground. The witness said he then flew up along the right side of the accident airplane and noted that there was no smoke or fire coming from the engine. The witness then trailed back and to the right. He could not recall if the landing gear were extended, but did recall that the light on the nose gear was turned on.
According to the witness, when the accident airplane was approximately a mile south of the private strip, the pilot rated passenger announced, “110 knots.” About 30 seconds later, he said they were having trouble gaining altitude followed by they were not able to maintain altitude. The pilot rated passenger then asked the witness for a vector to Mount Vernon Airport. The witness responded that it was 127 degrees and 4 miles, and he turned the runway lights on for them. The pilot rated passenger again informed the witness that they were not able to maintain altitude. The witness said he could see the airplane losing altitude and advised them that Interstate 44 was one mile ahead. The commercial pilot then announced they were going to land on the interstate.
The witness said the accident airplane continued to lose altitude. The pilot rated passenger then said, “Oh my God, I think we are going to crash.” This was followed by, “We’re going to crash.” The witness said he saw the light on the accident airplane's nose gear come on (the witness thought the light had been turned off at some point) and illuminate the trees in front of them. He then said the nose of the airplane pitched up, rolled slightly to the right, and then pitched forward, followed by flames and a fireball.
The airplane collided with a stand of tall trees and traveled approximately 100 feet on a heading of 185 degrees before it came to rest on a large pile of wooden planks and other debris. A post-impact fire consumed most of the cockpit, fuselage, and portions of both wings and the tail section. The entire airplane was accounted for at the site. From the initial impact point to where the wreckage came to rest, impact marks on the trees became progressively lower along the airplane's direction of travel.
Examination of the airplane revealed the flaps were in the retracted position and the main landing gear were out of the wheel wells. Each of the wing mounted landing lights were found retracted. Both engines had separated from the airplane. The right propeller assembly had separated from the engine and was partially buried in the ground. The two-bladed propeller was found in the feathered position. The left propeller assembly remained on the engine. Both blades exhibited aft bending and leading edge damage. Both engines were retained for further examination.
The commercial pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He was also a certified flight instructor for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, he held an airframe and power plant certificate. A review of his logbook revealed that as of October 6, 2012, he had a total of 3,299 flight hours; 411 hours in multi-engine airplanes, of which, 102 hours were in a Cessna 310.
The pilot rated passenger held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. A review of his logbook revealed that as of September 28, 2012, he had a total of 1,621.8 hours; of which, all 10.6 hours of multi-engine time were in the accident airplane.
Weather at Joplin Regional Airport (JLN), Joplin, Missouri, about 24 miles west of the accident site at 1753, was reported as wind from 120 degrees at 3 knots, clear skies, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dewpoint 3 degrees Celsius, and barometric pressure setting of 30.08 inches of Hg.
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