On February 2, 2002, about 1823 Pacific standard time, a Beech 58P twin-engine airplane, N4458S, landed hard on runway 19R, and hit two taxiway signs at the John Wayne Airport-Orange County Airport (SNA), Santa Ana, California. The airplane, which was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, sustained substantial damage. The airline transport pilot (ATP), the sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed the San Luis Obispo County Airport (SBP), San Luis Obispo, California, about 1723. The flight was scheduled to terminate at SNA.

According to SNA tower personnel, a Boeing 757 (B757) landed about 5 minutes prior to the accident airplane. While on downwind, the tower informed the accident pilot that a B757 was landing and asked him if he would like to make a 360-degree turn for spacing due to possible wing tip vortices. The pilot elected to perform the maneuver, and then proceeded to land.

The pilot stated that just before touchdown his airplane hit a "bump" and became "uncontrollable." The airplane landed hard to the right side of the runway past taxiway Juliet and struck two taxiway signs. The pilot aborted the landing. He attempted to takeoff; however, he noticed his airplane remained positioned over the runway and decided to land rather than continue the takeoff. He landed a second time near taxiway Hotel. The airplane started to veer to the left and came to rest on the left side of runway 19R near taxiway Echo.

Upon further inspection, it was noted that the left main landing gear scissor link had broken. During repair work, structural damage was observed. The incident was upgraded to an accident on July 9, 2002.

According to a written statement submitted by Federal Aviation Administration personnel, the pilot followed the glide path of the B757. The airplane flew into the wing tip vortices approximately 50 to 75 feet from landing at a point behind where the 757 had touched down.

According to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), "Under certain conditions, airport traffic controllers apply procedures for separating IFR aircraft. The controllers will also provide to VFR aircraft with whom they are in communication and which in the tower's opinion may be adversely affected by wake turbulence from a lager aircraft, the position, altitude, and direction of flight of larger aircraft followed by the phrase 'CAUTION - WAKE TURBULENCE.' WHETHER OR NOT A WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN, PILOTS ARE EXPECTED TO ADJUST THEIR OPERATIONS AND FLIGHT PATH(S) AS NECESSARY TO PRECLUDE SERIOUS WAKE ENCOUNTERS."

The AIM continues by offering the following advice for aircraft landing behind a larger aircraft: "Stay at or above the larger aircraft's final approach flight path - note its touchdown point - land beyond it."

The National Transportation Safety Board attempted to contact the pilot on numerous occasions, and sent two written requests for the pilot/owner to complete Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB form 6120.1/2), but there was no response.

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