CESSNA 340A CRASHES UPON ARRIVAL AT MONTGOMERY-GIBBS EXECUTIVE AIRPORT SAN DIEGO-CHALLENGING ATC INSTRUCTIONS, ANOTHER POSSIBLE ENGINE FAILURE AND ANOTHER CRASH BECAUSE OF LAX FAA CERTIFICATION

The Cessna 340A was Cessna’s first attempt at a cabin-class twin. It was derived from the earlier successful non-cabin class Cessna 310. The critical difference was that the 340A was much bigger and had the same turbocharged Continental engines.

The Wolk Law Firm has litigated against Continental Motors for years from accidents related to catastrophic failure of these engines. Continental, now owned by the Chinese Communist Government, always denies responsibility for these engine failures but the history of them cannot be denied.

I remember fifty years ago at Wing’s Field every Continental powered aircraft on the field including mine had a major problem. Cracked crankcases, blown cylinders, failed rocker arm bosses, broken rings, failed crankshafts, burnt valves, swallowed valves, seized bearings and oil starvation are just a few of the many problems, some of which resulted in accidents, but all of which required engine replacement or major repairs.

The Cessna 340A is a nice airplane, large inside, pressurized for comfort, pretty looking on the ramp. But it has a problem that is nearly always deadly. If one of these problem engines fails, the effects on the airplane make it a handful to fly and frequently, all too frequently, there is a crash killing all aboard.

The second problem is called VMC. VMC is the speed below which a failure of the critical engine with the propeller windmilling will cause the aircraft to lose directional control and roll right over on its back suddenly, as in a second or two. Once the airplane starts to roll, it increases its roll rate until it’s impossible to stop.

Pilots are trained to recognize and deal with loss of an engine. In theory, when the engine fails you Identify, Verify, and then Feather the propeller on the failed engine. You accelerate to VMC and roll 3-5 degrees into the operating engine. Unfortunately, by that time you are already dead.

When these airplanes were certified, the manufacturer determined the VMC speed and the FAA bought into it. In truth, only a test pilot who knows he is going to simulate a failed engine can maintain aircraft control at VMC.

For the rest of us, engine failure is a sudden emergency that has pilots swimming in glue until it’s too late. The Cessna 340A doesn’t have auto-feather that helps other aircraft somewhat by moving the dead engine’s propeller blades to a more streamlined position. When an engine fails in a twin, the airplane loses more than fifty percent of its power due to drag and the fact it is now flying sideways. The Cessna 340A is no exception.

A Cessna 340A doesn’t crash like this absent an engine failure and the NTSB and FAA need to look at the engines and then in a mirror because the FAA never should have certified an airplane to be able to suffer an engine failure and still fly when it won’t.

The pilot, a cardiologist who had flown into this airport frequently in this airplane, was on an ILS Approach to Runway 28R, an instrument approach I have flown many times. He was working SOCAL Approach and as usual was getting very crisp, rapid instructions to descend and intercept the final approach course. The last instruction appears to be to descend to 2800 feet and fly heading 250 degrees to intercept the localizer. Typical for SOCAL approach, the pilot didn’t get an approach clearance until later because of his altitude, position and heading for the localizer upon which he was not yet established. The pilot actually asked for the clearance as I have had to do many times as well.

As is not infrequent, the rapid descent required, turn to a new heading and high airspeed causes the airplane to blow right through the localizer. The pilot was cautioned that he was not flying the localizer course to the runway. He also got a low altitude alert from the Controller making the pilot’s workload even higher.

When I listened to the ATC communications, I heard the Controller give the pilot a descent to 2800 feet. That is 1000 feet lower than the normal approach clearance of 3800 feet until established on the approach and no doubt contributed to the pilot’s overload and confusion. I have flown that very approach many times and I have never been given a descent to 2800 feet at that point.

Once the approach was mishandled, the pilot was given a climb to 5000 feet for new vectors for the approach and he acknowledged the new clearance after which control was lost and the crash occurred.

While it would appear that pilot overload may have contributed to this accident, a missed approach would have been a piece of cake if everything was working alright. The fact that the airplane didn’t climb and control was lost may mean that at a very inopportune time one of the engines lost power and a VMC roll ensued. The pilot had adequate experience and ratings for this flight and was familiar with the terrain and procedures to be flown. Something else killed him and an innocent UPS driver on the ground.

The Wolk Law Firm is saddened by yet another Cessna cabin class twin crash and another possible engine failure that may have contributed to it.  I must also say that the vectors and altitudes given by ATC on both instrument approaches to Runway 28 Right at KMYF are often challenging.

May the memories of those killed be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk, October 11, 2021

 

Air Traffic Control audio can be downloaded from LiveATC.net:

https://forums.liveatc.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=16360.0;attach=11017

Arthur Alan Wolk

The Wolk Law Firm

1710-12 Locust Street

Philadelphia, PA  19103

p: (215) 545-4220

c: (610) 733-4220

f: (215) 545-5252

arthurwolk@airlaw.com

 

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Midair Collision – No Excuse

FAA Order 7110.65, better known as the “Point 65,” sets forth the procedures and phraseology for use by air traffic controllers.  Right up front, this order makes clear that “[t]he primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision involving aircraft operating in the system.”  Pretty hard to get around that one when a midair collision occurs.  If your very existence is premised on keeping aircraft from running into one another, and they do, well, you get the point. 

On Friday, October 1, 2021, a Piper Archer airplane and a Robinson R22 helicopter collided in the traffic pattern at Chandler Municipal Airport in Arizona.  While the Piper was able to land safely, tragically, the instructor and student in the R22 perished.  Chandler has an air traffic control tower, but it’s not operated by the FAA.  The tower at Chandler is one of more than 250 “contract towers” operated under national contracts awarded to Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, Serco Management Services Inc., and Robinson Aviation (RVA) Inc.  Regardless, the same rules apply.  In this case, the weather was VFR (visual flight rules), which begs the question, how is it possible for two aircraft to collide while flying in the traffic pattern at a controlled airport in visual conditions?  Unfortunately, many people (pilots included) think air traffic controllers are using radar to keep VFR airplanes “separated” at airports like Chandler.  Not so.  While tower controllers may have a radar display available, when the weather is VFR, they will generally be looking out the window and using their eyes (possibly aided by binoculars) to provide proper sequencing/spacing to arriving pilots.  Sounds archaic, and it is.  What’s more, there is no separation criteria like that when aircraft are operating under instrument flight rules (IFR).  So, at a busy airport, with a lot of flight training, is it really surprising to see two aircraft vying for the same airspace while talking to air traffic control?  Another question is whether the Piper and/or the R22 had ADS-B “traffic” information available in the cockpit.  Either way, there is still no excuse for allowing two aircraft to run into one another. 

Alan D. Mattioni

10/11/2021

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HIGHLY MODIFIED SILVER EAGLE CESSNA P-210 CRASH AT DEKALB PEACHTREE AIRPORT KILLS 4- MAYBE TOO HIGHLY MODIFIED.

A Cessna P-210 was the last iteration of the Cessna Pressurized Centurion airplane model, at least Cessna thought so.

The Pressurized Cessna P-210 was equipped with a Continental TSIO-520 piston engine and a three bladed propeller. It cruised at mid-altitudes and a little faster than the standard 210.

Then someone got the idea to change the engine and install an Allison, now Rolls Royce, turbine engine instead.

The propeller was changed as well and the STC was sold to a number of P-210 owners.

It was faster, flew higher, and had a higher rate of climb than the factory airplanes.

But it seems that good is never good enough so a new STC was developed, not by Cessna, that installed an MT, German built light weight five-bladed scimitar shaped propeller on this turbine conversion.

The one thing that seems to have escaped the thinking of designers and modifiers is that a five bladed propeller creates much more drag in the event of loss of engine power than either a four or three bladed propeller, in fact so much drag that the airplane wants to stop in mid-air right now in the event of loss of power.

Now it isn’t clear yet whether this crash was caused by the engine or propeller or both but surveillance video clearly shows the airplane climbing out and then suddenly rolling over on one wing as if it stalled suddenly.

With a properly operating engine and propeller, it is virtually impossible to stall a converted Silver Eagle  P-210 in this manner.

One problem with an airplane with a lot of after-market STC’s (Supplemental Type Certificates) is that the certification requirements are not as stringent and the testing not as rigorous as a factory-built airplane that is certified as an entire airplane.

So, given that a few MT propeller equipped airplanes have recently crashed, a TBM 700 in Ohio and this one at the least recently, a very careful look has to be taken of this propeller and its aerodynamics and functionality, especially if there is a loss of power for any reason.

The Wolk Law Firm extends its condolences to the families who are suffering so much from their losses.

May the memories of those who have passed be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

10/10/2021

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