NTSB Identification: WPR13FA289
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, June 24, 2013 in San Luis Obispo, CA
Aircraft: CESSNA P337H, registration: N337LJ
Injuries: 1 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 June 24, 2013, at 1255 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna P337H, N337LJ, collided with power distribution lines, a building, and a delivery truck following takeoff from San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, San Luis Obispo, California. The airplane was registered to CSC Solutions LLC, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post impact fire. The cross-country personal flight departed San Luis Obispo at 1254, with a planned destination of Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County, Palo Alto, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
The NTSB investigator traveled in support of this investigation.
According to air traffic control personnel located in San Luis Obispo Control Tower, the pilot reported that he intended to perform a high speed taxi, followed by a circuit in the traffic pattern, a touch-and-go landing, and then finally a departure. A series of security cameras located at a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) adjacent to the midfield of runway 29 recorded various segments of the flight sequences. The recordings revealed that during the final departure, following the touch-and-go, the airplane appeared to utilize almost the full runway length for the ground roll, then climbed to an altitude of about 150 feet above ground level (agl). A short time later, the pilot transmitted, “Mayday Mayday” over the tower frequency; the tower controller responded, and a broken transmission of, “uh” was then received.
A security camera located at a tire service center, about 1 mile west-northwest of the departure end of runway 29 recorded the airplane's departure path. The camera was facing northeast, and recorded the airplane flying on a northwest track at an altitude of between 100 and 200 feet agl. The airplane remained level as it passed from the right side of the camera's view to the center. It then began to descend out of view, and 4 seconds later, power to the camera was lost. About 20 seconds later power was restored, and the camera recorded a plume of smoke in the vicinity of the airplane’s descent path.
Multiple witnesses located at various locations within the airport perimeter recounted observations corroborating the camera recordings. They all recalled that their attention was initially drawn to the airplane because it was producing an unusual sound during the departure roll. A tower controller reported that she heard the sound of a bang, and looked over towards the airplane as it passed the tower at midfield. Another witness described the airplane as producing a “popping” sound, with another stating the sound was similar to a radial engine. A witness located at an FBO at midfield, reported that he looked up when he heard the sound of “propellers out of sync” and when he did so, he observed the airplane traveling northwest along the runway.
According to friends of the pilot, the airplane had been experiencing a problem with the rear engine during the month leading up to the accident. He left the airplane with a maintenance facility at San Luis Obispo Airport about 1 week prior, where a series of troubleshooting steps were performed. Work orders indicated that the engine was, "stuttering at 2,000 rpm." Maintenance personnel were unable to resolve the discrepancy, and the pilot requested that they discontinue the work. The airplane remained on the ramp, and was not flown again until the day of the accident. Another mechanic at a maintenance facility located at Palo Alto Airport reported that the airplane was brought to him about 2 weeks prior, and that he had attempted to diagnose the same problem. He briefed the pilot on the most likely cause, and was subsequently approached again by the pilot, who agreed to fly the airplane back to his facility on the day of the accident for further diagnostic evaluation.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The main wreckage came to rest adjacent to a cement-block building in a business park, 1 mile beyond, and directly in line with, the departure end of runway 29. The initial point of impact was characterized by damage to a series of three power distribution lines located on the border of the street, which separated the building from a strawberry field. Two of the lines had become separated from their insulator supports on top of the 35-foot-tall wooden power pole. Two pine trees adjacent to the distribution lines were topped at the 35-foot level. A second tree, 50 feet to the northwest, exhibited a 40-feet-wide swath of cut branches at an angle 45 degrees relative to the ground. The debris field, consisting of tree branches and limbs, continued another 25 feet to the building. The building’s east-facing wall was about 30 feet tall, and constructed of cement blocks. The right wing was located on the roof of the building, just above a series of diagonal white, blue, and black paint transfer marks on the face of the wall. Additionally, the debris field, consisting of the rear engine’s turbocharger inlet wheel and shroud, as well as cowling fragments, continued to the main wreckage, which had come to rest impinged against the front of a delivery truck. The entire cabin area was consumed by fire, and the odor of fuel was present at the site.
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