On June 17, 2005, about 0805 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N646RM, registered to and operated by the private pilot, collided with trees and the ground following a loss of engine power in the vicinity of Fort Myers, Florida. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The private pilot and the two passengers received minor injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight departed Naples Municipal Airport, Naples, Florida, about 0745.

The flight was en route to Asheville, North Carolina, with VFR flight following. The pilot stated that, as the airplane was climbing between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, he heard and felt a change in the engine. He stated he the oil pressure gauge and the oil temperature gauge showed normal readings, but the engine rpm spiked briefly beyond redline then returned to a lower rpm. The pilot declared an emergency to air traffic controllers and received vectors to Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Myers, Florida. The pilot stated he could see the airport, then "something gave in the engine, and it began to vibrate the yoke. A little further, and oil began to splatter on the windshield." The propeller continued to turn, the airplane could not maintain altitude, and the pilot glided it until it descended into trees and a swamp.

Examination of the accident site revealed the airplane was on its right side in about three feet of water in a wooded swamp about one mile south of the runway 24 threshold. Both wings were separated from the airplane, engine oil was on the cowling, and cracks and a hole were on the top of the engine crankcase. Examination of the engine revealed the No. 5 connecting rod cap was separated, pieces of the rod cap and bolts were found in the engine sump, and the fracture features of the rod cap and bolts were obscured by mechanical damage. No evidence of oil leakage from any engine seals or at the propeller hub was observed.

Review of maintenance records revealed the connecting rods had been replaced during the engine's most recent major overhaul, which was completed July 13, 1992. A new McCauley propeller was installed in accordance with Supplemental Type Certificate SA433CH on April 14, 2005, and an annual inspection was completed on the same date at a tachometer reading of 3173 hours and an engine time since major overhaul of 1141.2 hours. The tachometer reading at the accident site was 3182,43. The pilot reported there were no engine anomalies during the 9 hours it accumulated since the annual inspection.

According to Lycoming Service Instruction No. 1009 AQ, the recommended time between overhaul periods for the IO-540-K1A5 engine is 2,000 hours operating time or the twelfth year, whichever occurs first.

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