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On October 14, 2007, about 1030 eastern daylight time, an Aero Commander 560-F, N6370U, was destroyed when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Greater Cumberland Regional Airport (CBE), Cumberland, Maryland. The certificated airline transport pilot and the three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the planned flight to Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Atlantic City, New Jersey. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to the airport manager at CBE, who was also a friend of the pilot, the occupants intended a recreational trip to Atlantic City, with a return on October 16, 2007. Prior to the accident flight, the airplane was "topped off" with fuel, and a preflight inspection and engine run-up were performed.
According to data from Lockheed Martin Corporation, the pilot radioed the Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 1026, to activate his IFR flight plan, while still on the ground at CBE. Due to a delay as a result of preceding traffic waiting to depart IFR, the pilot elected to activate his flight plan in the air; however, the flight plan was never activated.
The airplane departed on runway 23; a 5,048-foot-long, 150-foot-wide, asphalt runway. Witnesses reported hearing at least one "rough running" engine during departure. One witness photographed the accident airplane during the initial climb of the accident flight, just prior to hearing the "rough" engine. The airplane subsequently left the witness's "line of sight." Review of the photograph revealed that the airplane appeared to be in a shallow left bank, with low clouds or fog observed below it.
After takeoff, there was no known communication or radar data associated with the accident airplane.
The wreckage was located about 5 hours later, approximately 3 miles southeast of CBE. Rising terrain was noted to the east and west of the accident site. The airplane came to rest upright, oriented about 260 degrees magnetic, and had impacted a barn adjacent to a field. The wreckage, barn, and surrounding area had been subjected to a postcrash fire. One ground scar was observed about 20 feet north of the wreckage.
The pilot, age 61, held an airline transport pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane multiengine land. He also held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single engine land. In addition, the pilot held various type ratings in turbine powered aircraft.
The pilot's logbook was not recovered. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued on February 16, 2007. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 21,000 hours.
The airplane was manufactured in 1964, and equipped with two Lycoming IGO-540 engines.
A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on January 19, 2007. At that time, the airplane had accumulated 3,704.6 total hours of operation. The engines had accumulated 1,411.9 total hours of operation, with 308 hours since the most recent overhaul, completed in January 1995.
Further review of the right engine logbook revealed that a teardown inspection was completed on June 29, 2007, due to "engine case not holding torque and oil leakage at top of case and rear of case...All parts were cleaned, alodined, and repainted before assembly. At time of reassembly new rod bolts and nuts, new bearings, rods, and mains and new gaskets, seals and (O) rings were used. All internal steel parts were magnafluxed and all non-ferrous materials were checked for cracks in power section. Cylinders were inspected, all valves and guides checked, cylinder barrels honed and new piston rings installed. Engine rotating mass dynamically balanced. Cylinders all pressure checked prior to installations..." At that time, the right engine had accumulated 2.3 hours since the annual inspection.
The CBE airport manager reported that the airplane flew approximately 10 hours during 2007.
The reported weather at CBE, at 1039, was: wind calm; visibility 10 miles; scattered clouds at 4,000 feet; temperature 50 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 43 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter 30.20 inches of mercury.
In addition to the witness who photographed the accident airplane, another witness who landed at CBE just prior to the accident flight stated that the weather was generally clear, with sparse pockets of fog in the valleys.
Another gentlemen did not witness the accident, but added that he had worked near the accident site during the previous week. The gentleman reported that fog was present every morning near the accident site, and usually dissipated about 1030.
The empennage was separated from the remainder of the wreckage, and was entangled in a tree about 10 feet above the ground. The empennage was intact and charred. Except for the left engine, right engine, both wingtips, and the landing gear, the remainder of the airplane had been consumed by fire. The landing gear was in the retracted position. Flight control continuity was confirmed from both aileron bellcranks, to the autopilot servo located near the center of the cabin. The bellcrank fittings remained attached to the cables, but had separated from the bellcranks consistent with overload, and displayed heat damage. Elevator control cable continuity was confirmed from the elevator bellcrank, to the baggage area. The elevator cables had separated at the baggage area, and the fracture surfaces were consistent with overload. Rudder control cable continuity was confirmed from the rudder, to the baggage area. The rudder cable ends at the baggage area exhibited evidence consistent with overload and heat damage. Elevator and rudder trim cable continuity were confirmed from their respective flex shafts, near the attach point of the horizontal stabilizer, to the cockpit area. Measurement of the elevator and rudder trim actuators and rods revealed that the rudder trim was approximately neutral, and the elevator trim was near the full nose up position.
The left engine was charred, and the accessory section was destroyed. The propeller remained attached to the engine. Two propeller blades exhibited s-bending and chordwise scratching, while the third propeller blade was melted. The underside of the left engine case was melted, and a visual inspection revealed that the crankshaft and connecting rods remained intact. All six cylinders sustained fire and impact damage.
The right engine was also charred, and the accessory section was destroyed. The propeller remained attached to the engine. Two propeller blades were melted to the blade root. The third propeller blade was also melted, but approximately 1 foot of blade remained. The remaining propeller blade and counterweights were in the feathered position. The underside of the right engine case was melted, and a visual inspection revealed that the crankshaft and connecting rods remained intact. The right engine number one cylinder exhaust valve had a section that was separated, and not recovered. Pitting was also noted in the area between the spark plug and exhaust valve seat. No similar damage was observed to any other cylinder valve.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Charleston, West Virginia.
Due to the approximate 5-hour postcrash fire, toxicological testing could not be performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Weight and Balance
A current weight and balance publication for the accident airplane was not recovered. According to the manufacturer, in June 1964, the airplane had a basic empty weight of 4,986 pounds (lbs) and a maximum gross weight of 7,500 lbs. The airplane held 223 gallons of fuel, which weighed approximately 1,338 lbs. According to West Virginia motor vehicle operator records, the occupants weighed a total of 660 pounds. Assuming 200 pounds of baggage, the total weight of the accident flight was approximately 7,184 pounds; about 316 pounds below the maximum gross weight of the airplane.
According to performance data provided by the aircraft manufacturer: at 800 feet above mean sea level (msl), at a gross weight of 7,500 lbs., at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, in the clean configuration, with "METO power - 3000 RPM," the airplane's single engine climb performance was approximatley 325 feet-per-minute. At 7,000 lbs gross weight, under the same conditions, the published single engine climb performance was approximately 475 feet-per-minute.
Review of Lycoming Service Instruction 1009AS revealed:
"Engine deterioration in the form of corrosion (rust) and the drying out and hardening of composition materials such as gaskets, seals, flexible hoses and fuel pump diaphragms can occur if an engine is out of service for an extended period of time. Due to the loss of a protective oil film after an extended period of inactivity, abnormal wear on soft metal bearing surfaces can occur during engine start. Therefore, all engines that do not accumulate the hourly period of time between overhauls specified in this publication are recommended to be overhauled in the twelfth year."
Further review of the service instruction revealed that the recommended time between overhaul period for the make and model engine was 1,200 hours.