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Thu, Jul 09, 2009

Did A Snail Cause A Cessna To Stop Flying?

Remains Were Found In A Fuel Tank During Investigation

While the NTSB did not cite a cause of the forced landing of a Penobscott Island Air Service Cessna 206 on June 15th it did note that the remains of a snail were found in the fuel that was recovered at the accident site. Fortunately there was only one minor injury associated with this incident.  The NTSB report reads:

NTSB Identification: ERA09LA352
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Monday, June 15, 2009 in Islesboro, ME
Aircraft: CESSNA U206F, registration: N33243
Injuries: 1 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 15, 2009, about 1145 eastern daylight time, a Cessna U206F, N33243, operated by Waters Aero-Marine, Inc, was substantially damaged following a loss of engine power and a forced landing, shortly after takeoff from Islesboro Airport (57B), Islesboro, Maine. The certificated commercial pilot sustained a minor injury. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cargo flight that originated at 57B, and was destined for Knox County Regional Airport (RKD), Rockland, Maine. A company flight plan was filed for the cargo flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.

File Photo

According to the pilot, the accident flight was the fourth flight of the day. During preflight, around 0600, the pilot sumped the fuel tanks and noticed water in the samples. He continued to sump the tanks until the fuel samples were absent of water. The airplane accrued 50 minutes of flight time during the 3 previous flights.

During the accident flight, engine start up prior to takeoff was “normal” and the airplane idled for 1 to 1.5 minutes while the Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver acquired its signal. The pilot lined up on runway 19, scanned the instruments, changed the waypoint in the GPS, added full power, and completed a “normal” takeoff. He said, “When I cleared the departure end of the runway, the power started to come back. There was a slight stumble to it, and then the power started slowly coming off. The throttle was full, and nothing happened, the power kept coming down.” The pilot estimated the airplane was 200 or 300 feet above ground level (agl) when the engine power decreased. He rejected an open field to his left for landing due to lack of altitude/glide distance, and chose to land straight ahead in heavily wooded terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the airplane. The pilot egressed through the baggage door, and later re-entered the airplane and turned off the fuel, throttle, mixture, and battery. He then used his cell phone to contact his company base operations.

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane multiengine, airplane single-engine, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine, and a ground instructor certificate.

The pilot reported his experience as 3,625 total flight hours, of which 350 hours were in make and model.

According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1975, and had accrued 6,887 total aircraft hours. The most recent annual inspection was completed May 16, 2009, at 6,836 aircraft hours.

 

At 1153, the weather reported at Knox County Regional Airport (RKD), Rockland, Maine, included an overcast ceiling at 1,600 feet and winds from 030 degrees at 6 knots. The visibility was 10 miles. The temperature was 19 degrees Celsius (C) and the dew point was 5 degrees C.

Examination of the airplane by FAA inspectors on the day of the accident revealed substantial damage to the airframe. Fuel leaking from the airplane prevented a detailed examination that day. However, fuel drained from the right header tank contained water and a snail (land mollusk). The snail subsequently dissolved in the sample jar, but the remains were suspended in the water at the bottom of the jar. The sample was retained for testing by the fuel wholesaler.

On June 17, 2009, a crew that consisted of 3 FAA-certificated mechanics disassembled the airplane and drained approximately 21 gallons of fuel from the left wing through airplane’s fuel system with no obstructions noted. The right wing was separated from the airplane except for "1 or 2 control cables.”

File Photo

Contrary to instructions forwarded through the FAA to the operator, the recovery crew performed troubleshooting and testing on the airplane. According to a report submitted by the recovery crew, the engine started immediately using the airplane’s battery power, and ran continuously utilizing the airplane’s own fuel system. An oil leak was noted due to impact damage.

The wreckage and the fuel harvested from the airplane were recovered to the operator’s hangar for a detailed examination by the FAA.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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