On October 27, 2010, at 1740 Atlantic standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N350RL, registered to N350RL LLC, experienced a high temperature in the right engine and a partial loss of engine rpm while on an instrument flight plan in visual meteorological conditions, at 9,000 mean sea level (msl). The certificated commercial pilot requested and received clearance from San Juan Center to divert to Rafael Hernandez Airport (TJBQ), Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The pilot elected to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean about 2.6 nautical miles east of the airport. The personal flight was operated in accordance with Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and the pilot was not injured. The flight departed from Punta Cana (MDPC), Dominican Republic at 1704, en-route to Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport (TJIG), San Juan, Puerto, Rico. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated that after loss of engine power and descending to 2,500 feet msl, he was handed-off to Borinquen Tower about 3 to 4 miles from the airport. Both engines were operating; however, the loss of rpm on the right engine made it hard to maintain altitude. He shut the right engine down and continued flying the airplane at 108 knots. He did not declare an emergency and informed the tower that he was going into the water. When asked why he elected to ditch the airplane instead of continuing to the airport, the pilot stated because of poor single-engine performance and windy conditions.
Review of transcripts between the pilot and the control tower revealed the pilot was instructed to enter a modified left base at 1731 for runway 8. The winds were reported at 060 degrees at 6 knots. The pilot informed the controller that he had an overheat condition and that he would continue to the airport. At 1736, the pilot informed the controller the right engine had quit. He further stated he was unable to continue to the airport that he was going down in the water. A Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene at 1742, and picked up the pilot at 1753.
The insurance company for the registered owner informed the general adjuster representing the registered owner that they were not going to attempt to recover the airplane wreckage.
Review of the PA-31-350 Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) states in Section 3 Emergency procedures, paragraph 3.9 ENGINE ROUGHNESS, "If an engine falters or runs erratically, the cause maybe fuel flow interruption, fuel contamination, icing or air starvation, or ignition problems. If roughness occurs, turn the emergency fuel pumps ON. Scan the instruments to see if the cause can be determined. Adjust the mixture controls for maximum smoothness; if the mixture is too rich or too lean, engine roughness may result. Open the alternate air control; a blocked induction system can cause roughness. If cylinder head temperatures are too high or too low, adjust the cowl flaps as required."
It further states, "If the problem is in the fuel system, selecting another tank containing fuel may remedy the situation. A check of the magnetos will determine if they are operating properly."
A WARNING in the POH states, "If either the right or left fuel flow warning light illuminates and the fuel gauge indicates fuel remaining in the corresponding inboard tank, this will indicate a malfunction of the flapper door in the inboard tank. Immediately select the outboard tank or select cross feed to avoid fuel flow interruptions."
Paragraph 3.11 ENGINE OVERHEAT states, "If engine temperatures becomes excessive, open the cowl flaps. Enriching the mixture and reducing power will also reduce engine temperature. If a more rapid reduction of engine temperature is desired, increase the airspeed by establishing a shallow dive."
According to a subsequent written statement from the pilot, after informing air traffic control about the engine overheat, he reduced power in both engines, turned the fuel boost on and opened the cowl flaps. The right engine continued to run with a low rpm. He further stated he did not observe a red fuel warning light illuminate. The pilot elected to ditch the airplane instead of landing as soon as practical at the nearest suitable airport as stated in the POH in Section 3 Engine Failure During Flight (Above 76 KIAS).