ATL97LA093
ATL97LA093

On June 30, 1997, at 0745 eastern daylight time, a Convair 240-53, N344MM, collided with a tree and the ground after departing Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The airplane was operated by Silver Express Co. as a non-scheduled, international, cargo flight, under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 125 and visual flight rules. Although the prevailing weather was visual meteorological conditions, an instrument flight plan was filed. The airline transport pilot in command and his commercial copilot were not injured, but the jumpseat rider received minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the FAA inspector, the pilot stated the airplane began its takeoff with the water/alcohol injection system on. After departing from runway 08 at Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport, the airplane climbed to 400 feet above ground level (agl) where the pilot began his first power reduction. At this time, the pilot stated, the engine began "backfiring" and emitting black smoke. After confirming a loss of power with his instruments, the pilot feathered the left propeller. He called "high lights" and told the co-pilot to increase the right throttle to maximum "dry power", or engine power without the use of water injection. This gave the right engine 53" of manifold pressure, as opposed to the 59" of manifold pressure available with water injection. According to a Convair Study Guide, when taking off with "wet" power, the pilot should use maximum "wet" power if losing an engine at the first power reduction. This "wet" power was limited to the first five minutes after take-off. The term "high lights" is not clear. According to the Convair Study Guide, the water injection system has two lights that indicate when the system is in operation. According to personnel at Silver Express, Co., "high lights" refers to maximum revolutions per minute (RPM).

The airplane was not able to maintain altitude, so the crew decided to land on the beach to "get away from populated areas". The crew prepared to ditch the aircraft. It descended until it struck a palm tree, and came to rest on the beach, in the surf line. Both the wings and engines were separated from the aircraft by the impact. Also, the horizontal stabilizer was damaged.

The left engine was later examined. The reason for the loss of engine power could not be determined because of salt water damage. The salt water corroded the carburetor and magneto casings precluding any determination of their operating capability.

According to the report provided by the inspector from the San Juan, PR, Flight Standards District Office, who interviewed the flight crew and examined the airplane, the airplane was 600 pounds overweight. He also stated that the flight crew did not comply with the airplane flight manual in that they failed to use all available engine power.

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