ATL98LA033
ATL98LA033

On January 17, 1998, at 1850 central standard time, a Cessna 150L, N7443G, ditched in the Tennessee River following a total loss of engine power near Guntersville, Alabama. The personal flight operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was located on January 21, 1998. The private pilot was fatally injured during the attempted swim to safety. The passenger received minor injuries. The flight departed Albertville, Alabama, at 1800 CST.

The passenger told an FAA Safety Inspector that the airplane was topped off with fuel before he and the pilot departed Albertville Airport, in Albertville, Alabama. The passenger also stated that he conducted the preflight inspection and did not observe a problem with the airplane. The passenger stated that he was in the left front seat and the pilot was in the right front seat. The passenger also reported that he was flying the airplane when the pilot shut the engine down as a simulated engine out. The airplane was about a mile south of the airport when the practice emergency was attempted.

According to the passenger, after the total loss of engine power, the pilot attempted to restart the engine. When the engine failed to restart, the pilot took the flight controls and elected to ditch the airplane in the river. After the relatively smooth touchdown, the airplane floated and both occupants exited the airplane. The passenger said they climbed on top of the airplane and decided to swim to a nearby bridge. The passenger lost contact with the pilot during the swim. The pilot never reached safety and was recovered from the river several weeks later.

The airplane was recovered from the water several weeks after the accident; the engine assembly was preserved until it was examined later. During the engine examination, the carburetor displayed evidence of water. The left magneto was removed from the engine assembly and bench checked at an approved FAA repair station. The bench check disclosed that the left magneto produced ignition sparks from each ignition lead.

The carburetor was subsequently removed and replaced with a serviceable component. After several failed attempts to start the engine, the left magneto was removed again and returned to the repair station, where a complete internal examination was completed. During this phase of the examination, the secondary side of the magneto coil was inoperative. The magneto coil was replaced with a serviceable component. The engine operated normally after the left magneto was installed. Examination of the right magneto disclosed that the secondary coil was also inoperative.

According to Dr. David P. Millet, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Southern Regional Flight Surgeon, the pilot's medical certificate was denied on January 14, 1998, because of his failure to provid requested information based on his medical examination of July 25, 1997. The autopsy on the pilot was conducted by Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, on March 20, 1998, at the Cooper Greene Hosiptal in Birmingham, Alabama.

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