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On July 12, 2004, at 0715 eastern daylight time a Convair 440, N4826C, registered to and operated by Dodita Air Cargo, ditched into the Caribbean Ocean 29 miles southeast of Beef Island, Virgin Islands. The cargo flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 125, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a Visual/ Instrument flight plan was filed. The pilot received fatal injuries, the co-pilot received serious injuries, and the airplane sank into 1,000 feet of water and is presumed to have sustained substantial damage. The flight originated in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 12, 2004, at 0600.
The co-pilot stated that the pre-flight and run-up before take off checks were performed with no discrepancies noted. After leveling off at 5,500 feet, they noticed that the right engine cylinder head temperature and oil temperature was about 10 degrees above the normal parameter for that engine. Shortly after, both pilot's noticed a sharp decrease in the right engine mean effective pressure followed by vibration in the engine. The co-pilot looked at the right engine and informed the pilot that it was on fire around the front lower cylinders. Immediately afterwards the right engine fire warning light came on along with the fire bell sound,
The pilot proceeded to feather the right engine propeller and pull the emergency handle . The right engine propeller feathered and then the pilot fired the main and reserve fire extinguishing bottles. When the co-pilot looked again at the right engine, the fire had extended to the whole front of the engine cylinders.
The pilot began turning the airplane in a westerly direction and began a descent in order to ditch the airplane. The pilot advised Air Traffic Control of their intention to ditch due to the right engine uncontrolled fire. While descending from 5,500 feet and while passing through 3,000 feet, the right engine, still on fire, began to droop down from the engine mounts. Seconds later, and while in the emergency descent the engine departed the wing. The co-pilot, handed a life jacket to the pilot and then put his on. The pilot placed his life preserver to the side and did not put it on. While descending the co-pilot opened his side window, but the pilot did not. At 300 feet, and still on a westerly heading, the co-pilot recalled that the airplane's indicated airspeed was around 135 to 140 knots, and the right wing leading edge was on fire and was melting.
According to the co-pilot, shortly before ditching the airplane the pilot requested 10-degrees of flaps but the flaps did not move. Both pilot's were at the controls of the airplane for the ditching. The airplane's back cargo compartment section touched the water first in a level attitude. After hitting the water surface the cockpit section also contacted the water and sank for a short time. The cockpit surfaced once and the water was above both pilot's shoulders. The co-pilot stated that this was the last time that he saw the pilot, as the cockpit was sinking in the water. The co-pilot, stated that he felt the cockpit separating from the fuselage while sinking and that at that time he was able to get out through a big opening forward of his co-pilots seat. After he got out, he felt disoriented and finally was able to see a glow of light and he followed it to the surface. He believes he was under the water for about 30-seconds. On the water surface he saw the fuselage of the Convair floating in the water along with the right wing of the airplane still on fire. He said that the wing was on fire for about two or three minutes before flaming out.
The co-pilot climbed on top of two aluminum panels floating in the water and was able to inflate his lifejacket. He remained on the high seas for almost two hours before he was rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. He never saw the Pilot again after he left the cockpit during his escape.
A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with ratings for airplane multiengine land, with type ratings in the DC-B26, L-18, L-B34, CY-240, CY-340, CY-440, IA-Jet and HS-125, airplanes. The pilot also held commercial privileges for airplane single engine land. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a second class medical certificate issued on October 1, 2003, with a restriction that he must wear lenses for far vision and shall carry glasses for near vision. The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 27,200 total flight hours. A review of Dodita Air Cargo pilot records revealed that the pilot had logged 924 hours in the Convair 440, with 112 hours logged within the last 90 days.
A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the co-pilot was issued a Commercial Pilot Certificate on January 16, 2004 with ratings for airplane single, multiengine land, instrument airplane. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the co-pilot held a third class medical certificate issued on January 7, 2004, with a restriction that he must wear corrective lenses. The co-pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 256 total flight hours.
A review of maintenance records revealed that the right engine was installed on the airframe on May 14, 2003 at 45,660.5 hours total airframe time. A complete "C" Check was accomplished on June 15, 2004 at a total airframe time of 45,741.8 hours with no discrepancies noted. The time since overhaul for the right engine was listed as 1,093.3 hours. The left engine also had a compete "C" Check on June 15, 2004 with no discrepancies noted. The time since overhaul for the left engine was listed as 700.2 hours.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Saint Martins, in the Virgin Islands. The 1200 surface weather observation was: scattered clouds at 1600 feet, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 29-degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 24-degrees Celsius, winds were 110-degrees at 11 knots, and altimeter was 30.04. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage sank into about 1,000 feet of water and was never recovered.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot's body was not recovered. There was no autopsy or toxicology performed.