On December 30, 2001, about 1110 eastern standard time, a Cessna 310H, N10MS, was substantially damaged while landing at the Tappahannock Airport (W79), Tappahannock, Virginia, following a total loss of left engine power, during cruise flight. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, between Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), Asheville, North Carolina, and Laurence G. Hanscom Field (BED), Bedford, Massachusetts. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he departed Asheville about 0900. The flight was "uneventful" until about 30 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, when the left engine lost power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine, but was unsuccessful. He secured the engine, and contacted Richmond Approach Control for information on the closest airport. The pilot was informed that Tappahannock Airport was 10 miles ahead, and he prepared for a landing on runway 02, a 2,785-foot-long, 75-foot-wide runway.

After a "normal" approach to the runway, during the landing flare, a gust of wind forced the left wing down. The wing struck the runway, and the airplane slid to a stop off the left side, coming to rest in the grass area.

The pilot stated that Richmond Approach reported the winds from 330 degrees at 6 knots, gusting to 22 knots.

An examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed substantial damage to the left wing and engine firewall. Examination of the engine revealed that the alternate air valve had broken off and was observed embedded in the fuel injector servo. The aluminum hinge which connected the alternate air valve to the airbox assembly remained attached to the valve and appeared worn where a steel cotter pin had connected the two pieces. The steel cotter pin remained attached to the airbox assembly and the holes in which it was housed appeared elongated.

A review of the airplane and engine logbooks by the FAA inspector revealed that the last annual inspection was performed in May 2001. No work entries pertaining to the alternate air valve were observed in the logbooks.

The pilot reported 5,117 hours of total flight time, 10 of which were in make and model. He additionally reported 38 hours of multi-engine flight experience.

The winds reported at 1055, at Patuxent Naval Air Station, located 30 miles to the northeast, were from 230 degrees at 8 knots. The winds reported at 1155, were from 230 degrees at 9 knots, gusting to 14 knots. The winds reported at 1054, at Richmond International Airport (RIC), Richmond, Virginia, 30 miles to the southwest, were variable at 5 knots.

Richmond International Airport consisted of 6 runways, one of which was oriented on a heading of 340 degrees.

According to the Cessna 310H Pilot Operating Handbook, the last item under the Engine Failure During Flight Checklist was to "land at the nearest suitable airport."

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