On July 5, 1997, at 2025 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 182B, N166KM, was destroyed during a forced landing and subsequent fire at the South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Medford, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that originated at VAY, at 2015. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In a telephone interview, the pilot reported that he took off from VAY, about 2000, and flew three traffic patterns. After the third traffic pattern, he landed the airplane, shut down the engine, and waited for three hot air balloons to cross over the airport. The balloons departed the area and the pilot restarted the engine and flew a fourth pattern. When describing the performance of the airplane, the pilot said:

"It was running great. Everything sounded normal and looked normal. About half way down on final I heard something between a bang and a thump. I don't know where it came from. The aircraft tried to nose up - started to pitch up, so I pushed the nose down. I didn't touch the throttle because I didn't want it to pitch up. I lost some altitude in a critical spot [and] struck the nose gear on the end of the runway. We went skidding down the runway on the nose. There were sparks and then out and out flames. I yelled for everyone to get out and within 2 minutes [the plane] was completely gone."

A witness on the airport was watching N166KM through binoculars. Her son was a passenger on the airplane. In a telephone interview the witness reported:

"After they waited for the balloons, they did a fourth pattern. They were coming in on final when I heard a 'pow' noise - a loud 'pop'. After the 'pop', the plane came down like someone dropping a ball. I saw flames coming out of the cowlings while it was still in the air. The airplane touched down and the [nose] wheel popped back. The airplane slid for a short ways on the nose with the tail up in the air. Then the flames came from underneath and around the cabin."

The witness reported that the three occupants climbed from the airplane uninjured and that the airplane was consumed by fire in less than 2 minutes.

Examination of the wreckage by an Federal Aviation Administration Inspector revealed:

"Flames consumed the aircraft within approximately 2-3 minutes completely destroying the aircraft and engine leaving this inspector with an aircraft and engine of ashes."

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