On May 3, 1997, about 1326 Atlantic standard time, a Piper PA31-350, N4408G, registered to Cruise Ship Tours, Inc., ditched in the sea near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, after loss of right engine power, shortly after takeoff from Cyril King Airport, while on a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The aircraft received substantial damage and the private-rated pilot and three passengers were not injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot stated that the engines operated normally during the initial part of the takeoff. After liftoff while climbing through 50-60 feet, the right engine began to surge and the air traffic controller reported black smoke coming from the right engine. He was unable to land on the remaining runway and continued the climb with the intention of returning for a landing. The right engine continued to surge and as he turned south over the sea, the aircraft tipped sharply to the right and almost stalled. He lowered the nose and the aircraft descended. He ditched the aircraft in the sea and he and the passengers exited the aircraft uninjured.

Postcrash examination of the right engine was performed under the supervision of an FAA inspector after the aircraft was recovered from the sea. The right propeller was in the low pitch range. The engine assembly rotated normally and continuity was confirmed with the valve train, crankshaft, camshaft, and all accessory drives. Each of the magnetos was inspected and showed no evidence of precrash failure or malfunction.

The engine fuel system was removed and sent to NTSB for examination. Four of the six fuel injector nozzle inserts were lost during removal from the engine. Examination of the fuel injector, fuel pump, and remains of the fuel nozzles showed no evidence of precrash failure or malfunction. The four fuel nozzles which were missing the inserts could not be tested.

Examination of the right turbocharger, turbocharger controllers, turbocharger wastegate was performed under FAA supervision at Allied Signal, Torrance, California. No evidence to indicate failure or malfunction of the right turbocharger system was found. (See attached Allied Signal report.)

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