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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: WPR15FA222
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 26, 2015 in Riverside, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/04/2017
Aircraft: BEECH F35, registration: N988RH
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The private pilot was receiving vectors for an instrument landing system approach during daytime visual flight rules conditions when he advised the controller that the engine had lost power and that he needed to land at a nearby airport located northeast of his position. The controller responded with the distance and direction from the airport and asked the pilot if he had the airport in sight, which he acknowledged. The controller advised the pilot to proceed inbound to the airport, told him that he could land on the runway of his discretion, and asked him to tell him which runway he was going to use; however, the pilot only responded that he was going to land into the wind. The controller repeated that the runway was at his discretion and the pilot repeated that he was going to land into the wind. Shortly after, the controller provided the pilot with the current weather conditions at the airport, which included wind from 280° at 12 knots gusting to 18 knots, and he then cleared the pilot to land on runway 27. Subsequently, the pilot responded that he was not going to make it to the airport. No further radio communications were received from the pilot.

Review of recorded radar data revealed that, when the pilot initially reported the loss of engine power, the airplane was about 1,644 ft above ground level; traveling on a heading of about 094°; and about 1.65 nautical miles (nm) west-southwest from the approach end of runway 34, 1.74 nm southwest of the approach end of runway 9, and 2.3 miles southwest of the approach end of runway 27. The radar data showed the flight track of the airplane continued on an easterly heading until it was about 0.96 nm south of runway 27 and about 653 ft above ground level. The airplane then turned left to a northerly heading while continuing to descend until radar contact was lost.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the landing gear were in the extended position and that the wing flaps were extended to about 20°. A postimpact fire and impact damage precluded a determination of the fuel quantities in all three fuel tanks. The engine test run did not reveal evidence of any preexisting anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The reason for the loss of engine power could not be determined.

The Pilot's Operating Handbook for the accident airplane states that the maximum glide configuration includes landing gear and flaps up, cowl flaps closed, propeller low rpm, with an airspeed of 105 knots. With this configuration, the glide distance is about 1.7 nm per 1,000 ft of altitude above the terrain. It is likely that, if the airplane had been properly configured for a maximum glide distance and if the pilot decided to turn directly toward runway 34 or runway 9, for a downwind or crosswind landing, the airplane would have been able to reach either of those runways.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The total loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined during postaccident examination of the airplane and engine. Also causal to the accident was the pilot's decision to attempt to reach the farthest runway and land into the wind instead of conducting a crosswind or downwind landing at a closer runway following the loss of engine power.