On June 5, 1998, at 1531 Eastern Daylight Time, a Beech 65-80 Queen Air, N215AB, was destroyed during an approach to Malone-Dufort Airport (MAL), Malone, New York. The certificated private pilot and four passengers received minor injuries while one passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. A visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight between North Myrtle Beach Airport (CRE), North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Malone-Dufort Airport. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
In a written statement to the New York State Police, the pilot wrote that he "received a weather report from Flight Watch...the winds were from the west at 18 knots, gusting [to] 26 knots...clouds were scattered at 6,000 feet." He further wrote: "At about 3:10 p.m. and...2,500 feet, I checked the wind socks to determine which runway to land on. At this time, I noticed the plane was not responding [as] it should have responded. All my pre-landing procedures were done, including the landing gear being down. I made a right turn and was trying to maintain directional control in order to have as controlled a crash as possible, because I knew a crash was inevitable."
At that time, the pilot made no mention of an engine malfunction, nor did the two passengers who were also interviewed. In an initial telephone conversation with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, the pilot said the left engine quit. During a subsequent interview, the pilot said the right engine was "cutting out, so he adjusted the mixture for that engine to keep it going." When reminded of the earlier telephone conversation, the pilot said he was not sure which engine had lost power because it happened so fast.
In a later telephone interview with the Safety Board Investigator, the pilot said both engines lost power. He stated that after he flew over the airport, he made a descending right turn to a downwind for Runway 32. At the abeam position, the airplane was about 2,000 feet, propellers 2,750 to 2,800 rpm, throttle reduced to 18 to 19 inches, mixture full rich, airspeed about 110 knots, flaps up, and an angle of bank of about 45 degrees. Just before turning to the base leg, the pilot said he lost power to the right engine, followed almost immediately by a loss of power to the left engine. He said he recognized the loss of thrust from the right engine by the sound and the yaw, and added left rudder. The pilot "gave more throttle" and both engines were "kinda coughing." He moved the mixture knob fore and aft, and checked the magnetos, pumps and battery switches. He said he knew he would land in the field. He landed "pretty much flat" but hit the right wing first. All three landing gear hit the ground and "came apart." The airplane slid on its belly, hit a small tree, and came to rest 142 feet from the initial impact point.
When asked to describe the loss of engine power, the pilot said it was "coughing like it was starting, backfiring, sputtering." The pilot stated that he did not try to put either engine into feather because he wanted the airplane to hit the ground at a lower speed.
The pilot also stated that the previous day, during the arrival to North Myrtle Beach from Key West, Florida, the right engine lost power during a missed approach. After the pilot leaned the mixture, it regained power. However, it lost power again when the throttle was reduced on final approach.
Witnesses in North Myrtle Beach stated that when the engine failed, the pilot executed a go-around, and continued through to the landing, with the landing gear and flaps down. After landing, a local fixed based operator offered maintenance help, but the pilot opted to troubleshoot the problem on his own.
The pilot said he spent several hours cleaning fuel screens that evening. During a ground test, the left engine started without any problem. The right engine was hard to start, but finally did. In order to keep the engine going, the pilot had to open the throttle until the fuel computer read a flow of 22 to 25 gallons per hour. The pilot said normal consumption at idle was 3.5 to 5 gallons per hour. He shut the engine down, re-cleaned the fuel screens, and started the engine again without problem.
According to the pilot, the preflight on the day of the accident flight revealed a small amount of solid contamination from an auxiliary fuel tank, and no contamination from the other tanks. The fuel from all tanks was blue in color, and no water was found. The fuel computer indicated at least 30 gallons usable fuel upon arrival at Malone after a 4.7 hour flight.
Inspection of the airplane logbook revealed that new main fuel tank bladders were installed a year and a half earlier.
On-site wreckage examination revealed that all six propeller blades were bent backwards approximately 90 degrees, with one blade on each propeller exhibiting evidence of chordwise scoring. Wheel well fuel strainer housings were covered with oil and dirt. Inside the strainer housings, there was silt and other contamination, mostly on the bottom and in the screens. The strainers themselves were checked for any obstruction using gravity fuel flow, and none was found.
Fuel filters, undisturbed in their housings, were removed from the airplane by the pilot and forwarded to the Safety Board Investigator. During initial visual inspection, the filter from the left engine appeared relatively clean, with small spots of brown residue. The filter from the right engine also contained small spots of brown residue, but also large amounts of a caked white residue. The housing for that filter exhibited stripped threads.
The fuel filters were forwarded to the Safety Board Materials Laboratory. According to the Laboratory's factual report, residue from each filter was removed, and subjected to energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) to determine which elements were present. The brown residue spectrum on the filter from the left engine contained a major peak of iron, and minor peaks of carbon, oxygen, aluminum, silicon sulfur, chlorine, potassium, calcium, manganese and zinc. The white residue spectrum on the filter from the right engine contained a major peak of aluminum, and minor peaks oxygen, potassium, sodium, and carbon. The brown residue spectrum on the filter from the right engine contained a major peak of iron, and minor peaks of oxygen, aluminum, manganese, and carbon. The housing with the stripped threads produced a major peak of aluminum.
After laboratory analysis, the filters in their housings were taken to Textron-Lycoming for further inspection. Both sets of housings and filters were visually examined, with the right filter showing no change from the initial visual examination. The residue from the left filter, however, had changed dramatically in appearance. Instead of the residue being caked on the filter, it lay in the housing loosely, as a sandy powder. Both housings and filters were reassembled and hooked up to a fuel flow meter. Gravity-fed fuel passed through both housings freely.
The Beechcraft Queen Air Model 80 Owner's Manual stated: "Engine failure is usually preceded by symptoms which will enable you to take preventive action, if you are alert to operating conditions at all times. Concern, therefore, must be given to operating and maintenance procedures." It went on to say: "Once an engine has actually failed, your first consideration is to continue flying the aircraft. Apply maximum power to both engines immediately. Then determine for certain which engine has failed. Advancing power to the operating limitations will give you maximum flying power on the good engine and will give you time to react to engine indications rather than forcing you into a rapid, arbitrary decision...."
The pilot received his multi-engine certification on April 22, 1998.