On June 10, 2004, approximately 0830 central daylight time, a Rockwell International S-2R, single-engine, tailwheel-equipped, agricultural airplane, N4968X, registered to and operated by Farm & Ranch Aerial Service, Inc., of Wharton, Texas, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a loss of engine power and subsequent in-flight engine fire while maneuvering near Needville, Texas. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant of the airplane, sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight. The local flight departed from a private grass airstrip located near Eagle Lake, Texas, approximately 0753.

The 26,400-hour pilot reported that while maneuvering at an altitude of 110 feet above ground level while performing an aerial application on a field, the engine "blew," and he noticed that "the propellers did not feather." The pilot stated that during the forced landing, an in-flight fire ensued. After landing in an open field, the pilot evacuated the airplane and noted that the airplane was still on fire. The local volunteer fire department arrived to the accident site approximately 10 minutes later and extinguished the fire.

Examination of the wreckage by an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the accident site, revealed that the right wing spar was bent and the engine firewall was fire damaged. Continuity was established from the propeller hub to the turbine shaft joint.

A review of the aircraft logbooks revealed that that airframe and engine underwent its most recent 100-hour inspections on May 2, 2004. At the time of the inspection, the engine had accumulated 3,472.7 hours since overhaul. The airframe had accumulated a total of 12,024 hours of flight time.

The automated surface observing station at the Bay City Municipal Airport (BYY), located 23 nautical miles south from the accident site, at 0825 reported wind from 140 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, clouds scattered at 2,200 feet, temperature 26 degrees Celsius, dew point 22 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of Mercury.

On December 9, 2004, at the facilities of Honeywell Product Integrity Teardown Facility, near Phoenix, Arizona, the remaining components of the TPE331-1-151K turboprop engine were examined under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The first and second stage turbine wheel, first and third stage stator, and the stator liner and assembly displayed fire damage. No anomalies were observed during the examination.

The reason for the loss of engine power and subsequent in-flight fire was undetermined.

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