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On January 28, 2009, about 1705 Pacific standard time, an experimental Siai-Marchetti SF-260C, N688C, crashed during takeoff following a loss of engine power at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), Santa Monica, California. The pilot was operating the borrowed airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated private pilot and passenger were killed; the airplane was substantially damaged by impact forces and the post crash fire. The local personal flight was departing SMO at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.
During takeoff witnesses observed the airplane climb normally until reaching an altitude between 200 to 400 feet, then the engine sound suddenly stopped. The airplane appeared to slow down as it made a right turn followed by a descending spin until impacting the ground between Runway 21-3 and taxiway A.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 45-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and helicopter.
The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on March 2, 2007. It had no limitations or waivers.
No personal flight records were located for the pilot. The aeronautical experience listed in this report was obtained from FAA airmen medical records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center. The pilot reported on his most recent medical application that he had a total time of 1,400 flight hours.
In May 2008, the insurance company for the accident airplane added the pilot to the approved pilot list for the airplane. At that time the pilot reported 1,600 hours total flight time, with 5 hours in make and model.
The owner of the airplane estimated that the accident pilot had accumulated about 20 hours of flight time in the make and model airplane involved in the accident.
The airplane was a Siai-Marchetti, SF-260C, serial number 466 (37-004). A review of the airplane’s logbooks revealed that the airplane had a total airframe time of 3,654.6 hours at the last condition inspection, which was completed on July 1, 2008.
The airplane was powered by a Textron Lycoming IO-540-D4A5, serial number L-19695-40, rated at 260 horsepower. Total time recorded on the engine at the last 100-hour inspection was 2,845.2 hours; time since major overhaul was 1,512.9 hours.
Fueling records at SMO established that the airplane was last fueled on January 20, 2009, with the addition of 11.7 gallons of 100LL-octane aviation fuel, topping off the main wing tanks. The pilot who refueled the airplane stated that after refueling he taxied the airplane back to the hangar with the right tip fuel tank selected, which he reported was standard operating procedure in this airplane. He also stated that the tip tanks had a very small amount of fuel; the exact quantity was undetermined.
Examination of the maintenance records revealed no unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the airplane and or engine prior to departure.
The airplane was cleared for departure by Santa Monica tower Air Traffic Controllers. No distress transmissions were recorded from the pilot prior to the accident.
The Airport Facility Directory, Southwest U. S., indicated that SMO runway 21 was 4,973 feet long and 150 feet wide. The runway surface was asphalt.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Investigators examined the wreckage at the accident site.
The accident site was located on the northwest side of runway 21/3 on turnoff A-1 between taxiway A and runway 21/3.
The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a ground scar, which was an impression of the right wing with scrape marks and paint transfer oriented towards the main wreckage. The debris field was contained within a 50-foot radius of the main wreckage. The fuselage was orientated on a 300-degree heading.
Extensive thermal and impact related damage was noted to both wings and fuselage. The tail section sustained thermal and impact damage, but to a lesser degree than the wings and fuselage.
During documentation of the accident site investigators observed the fuel tank selector valve handle appeared to be selected to the right tip fuel tank. The valve and handle assembly was examined on site and it was determined that the assembly was physically frozen in place due to the aircraft structure crushing around the selector assembly.
The extensive impact damage and crushing forces upon the airplane structure around the fuel tank selector assembly made it difficult to positively identify the actual position of the fuel valve selector prior to the examination.
The fuel tank selector valve assembly was cut from the main wreckage and secured for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Los Angeles County Coroner completed an autopsy on the pilot on January 31, 2009. The cause of death was listed as the result of multiple traumatic injuries. The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Investigators examined the wreckage at Aircraft Recovery Service, Littlerock, California, on March 10, 2009.
The airframe and engine were examined with no mechanical anomalies identified.
Investigators examined the fuel valve selector assembly at Stealth Aviation, Santa Monica, California, on April 14, 2009. The investigators determined that the fuel tank selector valve, which was originally believed to be positioned to the right tip tank position, was actually positioned out of its detent and was between the Right Tip Tank and the Both Tip Tank selection, as a result of the impact forces displacing the selector valve.
The fuel tank selector valve assembly was disassembled and found to be operational and undamaged.
The fuel tank selector valve has five selection positions; Left Tip Tank, Left Main Tank, Right Main Tank, Right Tip Tank, and Both Tip Tanks.
A review of the approved airplane flight manual for the Siai-Marchetti F260 revealed that the use of “Tip Tank” and “both Tips” is limited to level flight only.
The Normal Operating Procedures sections indicated that before starting the engine, the fuel selector valve should be positioned on the left wing tank.
Investigators noted during the post accident examination that there was a placard on the instrument panel which stated “USE WING TIP TANKS IN LEVEL FLIGHT ONLY.”