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On October 22, 2002, about 1530 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 310, N5247A, registered to and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed shortly after taking off from Merritt Island Airport, Merritt Island, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airline transport-rated pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane incurred substantial damage. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
A witness, who is an airframe and powerplant mechanic, stated that he always saw the pilot with his tool box, working on the right engine. He further stated that he would observe the pilot fly the airplane, return, and open the cowling and begin to work on the engine. The day of the accident flight, he said he saw the pilot start the airplane, perform the ground "run-up", and as he watched the start, taxi, and takeoff on runway 11, the whole time the right engine sounded as if it was missing and sputtering. He said that the airplane appeared to climb very slowly and continued to backfire, and while at an altitude of about 40 to 50 feet, he watched the airplane at a nose high attitude, heard the right engine which had been making the loud noises cease operating, and saw that the right propeller was not spinning. He said the attitude remained nose high and was never reduced. As he watched, he witnessed the airplane in a shallow right turn, at a low altitude with a nose high attitude, and it descended below the trees. Soon after he said heard a loud impact.
A Brevard County Sheriff's deputy located in a building near the departure end of runway 11 stated that he thought someone had been banging on the door very loudly, and he came out to see who it was and was then able to distinguish that it was the accident airplane. He said that the engine was backfiring very loud, to the extent that it rattled the building's windows. He stated that he went back inside the building and remarked to others that the no person should be attempting to fly that airplane, but should taxi back to parking and get it repaired.
Another witness stated that he was inside a hangar, near the entrance, and as he was welding, he heard the engine from the time it was started, and it was "crackling, popping, and had lots of backfiring" during the start, taxi, run up, and takeoff. He said he watched the airplane takeoff from runway 11, and while about 600 feet from the threshold of runway 29 he heard a loud popping noise, and then the noise ceased. The witness said that as he watched the airplane, he noticed that the propeller of the right engine had stopped spinning, and the airplane was turning to the right toward the side where the propeller had ceased operating. He said the airplane also remained in a nose high attitude while turning, and then it disappeared from his sight behind the trees, followed my a momentary sound of the engine "screaming" at a high rpm setting, followed by the loud sound of an impact, and then there was silence.
FAA records indicate that the pilot held an FAA airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, with an airplane multiengine land rating, with commercial privileges single engine land, and was type-rated in the Boeing 747. In addition, he held a flight engineer-turbojet powered certificate, last issued on October 8, 2002; and airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate, issued on May 5, 1988; and an inspection authorization rating issued on March 10, 1997. He also held a ground instructor certificate with advanced and instrument ratings, issued May 10, 1989, as well as an FAA first class medical certificate, with no stated waivers or limitations, which had been issued on October 2, 2002.
According to pilot FAA records and information obtained from the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated at least 1,620 flight hours of experience, of which about 127 had been completed in the last 6 months.
N5247A is a 1956 Cessna 310 , serial number 35447. The aircraft was first delivered on October 3, 1956, and the accident pilot registered the airplane on June 11, 2001. The airplane was equipped with two Teledyne Continental Motors O-470M, 240 horsepower engines.
The left engine's serial number was 52051-7-M, and it had an accumulated about 24 hours since major overhaul. The left engine had been installed by the owner on July 11, 2002, after being overhauled.
The right engine's serial number was 51649-7-M, and it had accumulated about 3743.2 hours as of October 9, 2002, of which about 630 hours had been accumulated since major overhaul. The logbook shows the right engine had last been overhauled on September 17, 1982, and the last maintenance that had been performed on it was an oil change on October 9, 2002. According to the pilot's father, his son had been planning to overhaul the right engine in the near future.
The airplane was also equipped with two two-bladed constant speed Hartzell propellers. The left propeller's serial number was AN-7290B, and the right one's serial number was AN7291B, and their times in service are unknown.
At the time of the accident, the aircraft had accumulated about 3,868 total flight hours. On July 11, 2002, about 30 flight hours before the accident, the pilot conducted an annual inspection on the accident airplane.
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The Titusville Space Coast Regional Airport, Titusville, Florida, 1550, surface weather observation was, wind from 130 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, temperature 89 degrees F, dewpoint temperature 19 degrees F, altimeter setting 30.03 inHg. The computed density altitude was about 1,500 feet. The Titusville Space Coast Regional Airport is located 18 NM north of the accident site.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted the swamp, about 0.5 NM southeast of the airport, about equidistant with the departure end of runway 11, in a thicket of mangroves, in about 2 to 3 feet of swampy water in geographic position 28 degrees, 20.025 minutes North latitude, 080 degrees, 40.976 West longitude. N5247A impacted at about a 45-degree nose-down pitch attitude, and came to rest upright on a magnet heading of about 250 degrees, All airplane wreckage was located and found to be in the immediate vicinity, and the airplane had incurred heavy impact damage to its nose and undersurface with the front of the airplane having been pushed aft and upwards from the bottom. In addition, there was damage to the wings, with the "crushed lines" of about a 45-degree angle. The main/tip tanks had separated/breeched during impact, and there was the smell of fuel in the water around the aircraft. The inboard/auxiliary tanks were intact and nearly full of fuel.
After recovery from the swamp by helicopter, the airplane was further examined. The fuselage had fractured aft of the cabin seat position in the area of the baggage compartment. The empennage had remained attached, and had incurred little damage except for the left elevator. There had been no indications of a fire having occurred, and damage was consistent with that from the impact. Control continuity was established for roll, pitch and yaw from the primary flight control surfaces to the cockpit, and the elevator and rudder trim tabs were verified to be in their neutral position.
The left throttle was observed to be full forward, and the right throttle was about 1 1/2 inch back. Both mixture controls were full rich, the left propeller control lever was aft about 1 inch and the right propeller control lever was full forward. The flap position indicator was unreliable, and showed a reading that was off the scale, but the flap was verified to have been up by the indication at the flap gear box. The landing gear box position was consistent with the landing gear having been retracted. The rudder trim indicator was destroyed, and the aileron trim indicator read was neutral. Both the elevator and rudder trim indicators had been destroyed. Shoulder harnesses had not been installed in the aircraft, and the pilot side waist harness had been cut.
The gauges were relatively intact, but the instrument panel had been pushed up and into the cabin. The magnetic compass had been destroyed. The airspeed indicator read 10 knots, the attitude indicator showed a 40 degree right turn and a 45 degree up attitude. The altimeter read 260 feet, and the Kollsman window was set to 30.02. The directional gyro read 109 degrees, and the turn and bank indicator showed a maximum right turn with the ball to the left out of the tube. The clock was of a digital design and was not readable. The mechanical clock was operating while the airplane was being examined. The No. 1 OBS was set to 066 degrees, and the No. 2 OBS indicated 360 but it had significant damage. The left/right generator/battery switch was set to on, the left boost pump was off, and the right boost pump was on. The left and right ignition as well as the left/right start switches were found to be in the off position. Both primer switches were in neutral and the beacon switch was off. All circuit breakers to include the right boost pump, the landing gear motor, the navigation lights, and the gear indicator lights circuit breaker had also "popped." Both carburetor heat controls were set to "cold", and both tachometers read 0.The left oil pressure gauge read below zero/off the scale, and the right gauge read 0. Both the left and right oil pressure gauge read 0. The left fuel pressure gauge read "-2" and the right read 0, and the suction gauge read 0. The left and right fuel gauge read 0, and the auxiliary gauge reading was off the scale. e. below 0. Both the left and right rpm indicators, as well as the left and right manifold pressure gauges read 0. The left and right cylinder head temperatures read 0.
The left fuel selector handle and valve was set to the left auxiliary tank, and fuel was found to be present in the fuel lines at the left and right connections to the selector valve. The right fuel selector handle was on the right main tank, with the valve not in its detent, but indexed between auxiliary and main positions and crossfeed positions. The examination revealed the presence of fuel in all lines at both selector valves. Fuel was observed in both firewall mounted main fuel filters but no fuel was observed in the right delivery line, right fuel pump, or in the Bendix pressure carburetor's filter housing. Both left and right side gascolators contained fuel, and the right side fuel boost pump was tested and found to be operational.
Both propellers had remained attached to the respective engines, and the blades were loose but had remained in their hubs, with the spinners having deformed around the hubs. The left propeller displayed "S" type bending, and twisting consistent with propeller rotation, and one blade had remained in a low pitch position, with the other blade having turned 180 degrees from its normal position. The right propeller had its blades bent aft consistent with the propeller having stopped turning, one blade was bent about 45 degrees toward the non-cambered side near the shank, and the other blade about 30 degrees toward the cambered side. Both blades were in the low-pitch position, and had not been feathered,
Both engines had remained attached to the nacelles after the impact. The left engine was found to be intact, and its accessories were attached. The balance tube and exhaust pipes had incurred impact damage. The throttle cable was still attached and the throttle was set to the idle position. The mixture control cable had separated from the actuating arm. The top spark plugs and valve covers were removed and the crankshaft was rotated. Continuity of the valve system and drive train was confirmed to all cylinders and to the back of the engine, and there was good compression on all cylinders. Spark plugs were examined and found to exhibit light wear and minimal deposits when compared to the Champion spark plug card. The carburetor was intact with the mixture control having separated. The fuel screen was clear and fuel was found inside. The oil screen was clear with no particles found. Both magnetos were checked and functioned when tested.
The right engine was found to be intact and it had all its accessories attached. There was impact damage to the exhaust pipe, the bottom of the oil sump, and the bottom No. 5 ignition lead. The throttle linkage was attached and the setting was verified to be in the idle position. The mixture control was attached with its setting was midrange, and the propeller control had been advanced. After removing the valve covers, drive train and valve continuity was conformed through the back of the engine, and there was good compression on all cylinders. The left and right magnetos were tested and they were both timed 23 degrees above top dead center and operated on all terminals. The spark plugs were removed and examined and they had light wear as compared to the Champion Chart, and had minimal deposits on the terminals. The carburetor was found to be intact and there was no damage. No fuel was found inside the carburetor, and a follow-on examination and flow test revealed no anomalies.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the medical Examiner, Brevard County, Rockledge, Florida. The cause of death was determined to be due to blunt force injuries. No findings which could be considered causal were reported.
The Wuesthoff Reference Laboratory, Melbourne, Florida, conducted toxicology studies on specimens from the pilot. The specimens were tested for cannabinoids, cocaine metab, opiates, benzo, barbiturates, tricyclics, fentanyl, salicylate and volatiles, and only caffeine was reportedly present.
The FAA Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicology studies on specimens from the pilot. the samples were tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles and drugs. Atropine was found to be present in blood.
On October 26, 2002, the NTSB released the wreckage of N5247A to Mr. Joe Richardson, Director of maintenance, Meritt Island Air Service. The NTSB retained a fuel pump and carburetor for further examination, and on December 12, 2002. the fuel pump and carburetor was released to Mr. Scott McGinness, Surveyor, CTC LAD Aviation Services.