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On November 5, 2007, approximately 1115 central standard time, a single-engine Beech J35 airplane, N7208B, was substantially damaged after performing a gear-up forced landing following a total loss of engine power near Fort Worth Meacham International Airport (FTW), Fort Worth, Texas. The aircraft was owned and operated by the pilot. The private pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft and received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight originated from Houston Executive Airport (TME) near Brookshire, Texas with a planned destination of Hicks Airfield, Fort Worth, Texas (T67) 233 nautical miles away.
In a telephone interview, the private pilot reported that while en route, he transitioned Fort Worth Meacham International Airport's (FTW) airspace. When the pilot was approximately abeam the midfield of the runway, the engine made a "cough" similar to what the pilot described as "water in the engine." When the pilot was abeam the end of Meacham’s runway, the engine stopped producing power. The pilot declared an emergency with Meacham tower controller and was subsequently cleared to land. While maneuvering for runway 16, the pilot attempted to restart the engine three times before committing to an engine-out landing. When the pilot realized that a landing at Meacham was not possible, he elected to perform a gear-up forced landing in a clearing by a highway on-ramp. The pilot's seat was not equipped with a shoulder restraint and the pilot's head contacted the instrument panel contributing to the injuries sustained by the pilot.
DAMAGE TO AIRPLANE
The propeller was bent toward the non-cambered side with no visible S-bending consistent with low to no engine power. The engine and cowling were totally separated from the right side of the airplane, and almost totally separated from the left side of the airplane. The throttle control arm was found undamaged and disconnected from the engine. The undersides of both wings were dented from impact and both fiberglass wingtip fuel tanks were ruptured. During the recovery of the airplane, fuel was extracted from the remaining fuel tanks.
The 61-year old pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and airplane instrument ratings. A valid third class medical certificate was issued on November 21, 2005. Due to his injuries, a NTSB Form 6120 was not submitted, but a telephone interview was conducted.
The 1958 Beech J35 was a 4-seat, low wing, retractable gear airplane. A two-bladed, metal, McCauley propeller was powered by a 250 horsepower Teledyne Continental Motors IO-470-C engine, serial number 87522-O-C-R.
At 1053 CST, an automated weather reporting facility at Meacham International Airport, reported winds from 200 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 16, visibility of 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 73 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 30.00 inches of Mercury.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On November 12, 2007, an engine examination was conducted by a technical representative from Teledyne Continental Motors with members from the FAA and NTSB. Continuity and thumb compression was confirmed on all cylinders by rotating the propeller. The cylinders were bore scoped and normal carbon deposits were observed. The metering unit was partially separated from the engine. The throttle control cable was found disconnected. No damaged, gouging, or deformation was observed on either the throttle control cable's rod end or on the metering unit's throttle control actuating arm. The throttle cable's rod was rotated by hand and found to rotate smoothly. The metering unit's mixture actuating arm was found fractured into two pieces. The mixture control cable was found attached to the outer portion by nonstandard hardware consisting of a bolt, washer, and metal locking nut. No abnormalities were found in the fuel pump, fuel manifold, injector nozzles, magnetos or spark plugs. Fuel was present in the fuel manifold. No contaminates were found in the oil screen.
According to a technical representative from Raytheon Beech Aircraft, the approved hardware to secure the metering unit's throttle arm and mixture arm are a AN310-3 castellated nut and a AN380-2-2 cotter pin.
In a telephone interview with the pilot, who was also the owner and operator, he was not aware of the nonstandard hardware on the mixture arm and reported no recent work was completed on the metering unit. In addition, the pilot recalled that while cleaning debris from the metering unit, the bolt head securing the throttle arm faced towards him, so he was unable to see if a castellated nut with pin was securing the throttle arm.
Shoulder restraints were not available, nor required for certification. The FAA provides numerous documents to educate pilots on the increased factor of safety when installing restraint devices on small aircraft. A pilot safety brochure entitled "Seat Belts and Shoulder Harnesses: Smart Protection in Small Aircraft" provides pilots the facts needed to decide whether to install restraint devices not mandated at the time the original airworthiness certificate was issued.
In 1984, the NTSB concluded a study on "General Aviation Aircraft Crashworthiness." In the study it was estimated that by installing a shoulder harness, fatalities could be reduced by 20 percent and serious injuries could be reduced by 88 percent.