LAX06LA175
LAX06LA175

On May 18, 2006, about 1120 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Cessna 210J, N3384S, ditched in a lake following a loss of engine power near Redding, California. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The commercial pilot sustained minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The cross-country personal flight departed Chehalis-Centralia Airport, Chehalis, Washington, about 0835, with a planned destination of Benton Field, Redding. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed.

The pilot submitted a written report. He conducted a preflight inspection, which included checking the fuel and fuel quantity. He used a fuel stick to determine fuel quantity in each tank and determined that there was 53-55 total gallons of 100LL aviation fuel evenly distributed in both fuel tanks. The flight was smooth and uneventful. The airplane's indicated fuel flow was less than 13 gallons per hour. The pilot switched fuel tanks from the left to the right after 1 hour of flight, and planned to switch back to the left tank after another hour had passed.

Approximately 40 miles north of Benton Field, the pilot noted that both fuel tank gauges indicated a little above 1/4 tank. Fifteen miles from his destination he radioed Benton's Universal Communications (UNICOM) and received landing information. En route to the airport he heard a radio transmission from a California Highway Patrol aircraft that was approaching Benton Field from the south. He decided to turn right to view the Keswick dam complex and rock query while giving the other aircraft time to clear the area.

The pilot noted the airplane's altitude as 1,200 feet above ground level (agl) approaching the dam complex, when the engine lost power. He had just set the throttle to 17 inches of manifold pressure, extended the landing gear, and lowered 10 degrees of flaps for his planned entry into the traffic pattern in about 4 minutes. His first reaction to the loss of engine power was to switch fuel tanks, turn the fuel boost pump on, and advance the throttle. The engine did not respond. While looking for a spot to make a forced landing, he radioed UNICOM of his situation. As he approached Keswick dam, he saw power lines surrounding the dam area. He decided not to extend full flaps at that time, because he was concerned about clearing the power lines. He made a 140-degree turn, cleared the power lines, and then descended towards the water. He reported that the airplane hit the water at 60 miles per hour, and he had not opened his door prior to impacting the water. He sustained a facial injury, but was able to regain his faculties, and exit the airplane. He had to wait for the pressure inside the cockpit to equalize before he was able to open the door. The water was frigid, but he was able to swam to shore. The plane sank about 8 minutes later.

A maintenance facility examined the engine under the supervision of an FAA accident coordinator. Maintenance personnel removed the engine from the airframe. They noted no obvious visual discrepancies. They removed the spark plugs with no discrepancies noted. The wiring harness was intact, and showed no heat damage or abnormal coloration. A borescope inspection revealed no mechanical deformation to the valves, cylinder walls, or internal cylinder heads.

Maintenance personnel manually rotated the engine with a wrench attached to the crankshaft. They heard no abnormal metallic sounds. Crankshaft rotation produced thumb compression in each cylinder, and they established accessory gear and valve train continuity. They removed all of the cylinders from the engine, and noted no internal mechanical damage to the inside of the engine.

Both the left and right magnetos separated from the engine. Technicians manually rotated the magnetos, and produced sparks at all posts in firing order.

The fuel selector valve was selected to the LEFT fuel tank position. Eight gallons of liquid that looked and smelled like 100-LL aviation fuel was recovered from the left fuel tank, which maintenance personnel indicated was contaminated with water. They recovered no fuel from the right fuel tank. They found no fuel in the fuel injector nozzles, and the fuel injector nozzles were clear of debris. The fuel lines were clear and intact. They found no fuel in the engine driven fuel pump.

The pilot made several recommendations. He stated the need to open the door prior to water entry. He will require his future airplanes to be equipped with a better fuel flow/quantity indicator. He will also never fly in an airplane with just a seat belt. He will require a full harness system, no matter the year of manufacture of the airplane.

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