Friday, May 22, 2015

Rockwell 114 Commander, N4775W, Fuzz Aviation LLC: Fatal accident occurred May 17, 2015 near Laughlin/Bullhead Intl Airport (KIFP), Bullhead City, Arizona

James Dale Walker, USAF Colonel (Retired) 


Diana M. Soto



Greg Torres and Diana Soto


The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.


Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Las Vegas, Nevada
Lycoming Engines; Mesa, Arizona 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Fuzz Aviation LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N4775W


NTSB Identification: WPR15FA163
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Laughlin, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/07/2017
Aircraft: ROCKWELL COMMANDER 114, registration: N4775W
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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/owner reported that, during the climb to between about 300 and 400 ft above the ground, the engine started running roughly, and the airplane was not accelerating or climbing. The terrain ahead was rising, so the pilot turned right. Due to the low altitude and reduced engine power, the pilot chose to conduct an off-airport landing, during which he attempted to troubleshoot the engine issue without success. As the airplane continued to descend, the pilot saw houses and bushes ahead; he aimed the airplane away from the houses, and the airplane eventually hit trees and terrain about 4.6 nautical miles from the airport. A postimpact engine fire ensued.

Postaccident examination of the engine revealed that the turbocharger was seized and that the exhaust side of the turbowheel was severely eroded, which led to the engine running rough. A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that a turbocharger normalization system had been installed on the airplane under a supplemental type certificate (STC) 13 years before the accident. The STC's instructions for continued airworthiness required that the turbocharger normalization system be inspected every 100 hours. However, a review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that the system had only been inspected once since its installation and that the inspection was completed 6 years before the accident. No other abnormalities were noted with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that the eroded turbowheel would have been detected if the turbocharger normalization system had been inspected as required.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A partial loss of engine power due to the turbocharger's seizure as a result of a severely worn turbowheel. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the pilot/owner to have the turbo normalization system inspected every 100 hours as required, which allowed erosion on the exhaust side of the turbowheel to go undetected.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT


On May 17, 2015, about 1800 Pacific daylight time, a Rockwell Commander 114B airplane, N4775W, crashed shortly after takeoff near Laughlin, Nevada. The private pilot/owner sustained serious injuries, and the three passengers sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The pilot was operating the airplane as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the accident site about the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP), Bullhead City, Arizona, at 1756, destined for Goodyear, Arizona.

According to the pilot, he conducted an engine test run with no anomalies noted. At 1756, the tower controller cleared the flight for a straight-out departure to the south. During the climb to between about 300 and 400 ft above the ground, the engine started running roughly, and the airplane was not accelerating or climbing. The terrain ahead was rising, so the pilot turned right. Due to the low altitude and power, the pilot chose to conduct an off-airport landing, during which he attempted to troubleshoot the engine issue without success. As the airplane continued to descend, the pilot saw houses and bushes ahead; he aimed the airplane away from the houses, and the airplane eventually hit trees and terrain. A postimpact engine fire ensued.

Several witnesses near the accident site reported seeing the airplane flying at a very low altitude. One witness reported seeing it descend into trees followed by a fireball. Another witness reported seeing the airplane flying on a southbound track with its wings level and then descending out of his sight; he then saw an explosion followed by a fireball.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot was issued a Federal Aviation Administration third-class medical certificate on December 18, 2014, with the limitations that he must wear corrective lenses/glasses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The four-seat airplane, serial number 14105, was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540-T4A5D engine, serial number L-15117-48A. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed that its last annual inspection was completed on October 28, 2014, at a total airframe time of 3,436.5 hours. A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed a total time since engine overhaul of 1,148.8 hours.

The maintenance records showed that, on May 11, 1995, A McCauley 3-bladed propeller and a Woodward Governor were installed in accordance with STC No. SA4444NM. The original propeller installed on the Rockwell 114 was a 2-bladed Hartzell propeller model HC-C2YR-1BF. 

The maintenance records also showed that, on April 18, 2002, an aftermarket turbo normalization system was installed on the engine under Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) Number SE00357DE. At that time, the total airframe time was 2,758.0 hours, and the time since engine overhaul was 480.3 hours. The STC's instructions for continued airworthiness required that the turbo normalization system be inspected every 100 hours.

On December 9, 2009, the turbo normalization system was removed, inspected, and reinstalled. The logbook entry noted that casting voids were found on the exhaust side of the turbocharger. The entry also noted that photographs had been provided to the turbocharger manufacturer for evaluation and that the manufacturer had deemed it airworthy. The engine logbooks contained no other entries indicating that the turbo normalization system was inspected in the 6 years before the accident.

IFP fueling records indicated that the airplane was last fueled on May 17, 2015, with 20.0 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane crashed in Big Bend State Park. The main wreckage was located 4.6 nautical miles southwest of IFP. The airplane initially hit a mesquite tree, then impacted sand, and finally came to rest 120 ft south of the first impact point on a magnetic heading of 273°. The postimpact fire consumed most of the airplane.

Flight control continuity was established with all the flight control surfaces. The structure of all of the flight control surfaces and their corresponding counterweights were found in their correct positions. The landing gear were found in the retracted position. All of the cockpit components and instrumentation were consumed by fire.

The main wing assembly sustained thermal damage consistent with a fuel-fed fire. All of the wing components were found in their respective locations. Both flap assemblies were consumed by fire and found near the attachment point to the wing structure. The right wing was found up against the right side of the fuselage and was consumed by fire.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The wreckage was transported to Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona, for further examination. 

No abnormalities were noted with the airframe that would have precluded normal operation.

The engine was removed and disassembled. The propeller hub remained attached to the engine. The three propeller blades were present and exhibited thermal damage. The turbocharger, magnetos, and oil filter remained attached to the engine. All the other engine components were attached at their respective positions and exhibited thermal damage.

The turbocharger was found to be seized, it was disassembled, and examination of the turbowheel revealed that the blades were eroded. The overall diameter of the turbowheel was 2.451 inches. According to the manufacturer, a new turbowheel diameter is about 2.5 inches. It was also noted that the turbine impeller was significantly eroded and the heat shield was eroded which would allow hot gases to enter the bearing area and coke up the shaft.

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA163
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Laughlin, NV
Aircraft: ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL 114, registration: N4775W
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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. 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.

On May 17, 2015, about 1800 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Rockwell Commander 114, N4775W, crashed after takeoff near Laughlin, Nevada. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot sustained serious injuries, and three passengers were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post-crash fire. The cross-country personal flight departed Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP), Bullhead City, Arizona, at 1756, with a planned destination of Goodyear, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

At 1756 PDT, ATC cleared N4775W for a straight out departure to the south. In a post-accident interview the pilot stated that shortly after takeoff the engine started to run rough and the airplane was not climbing. The pilot realized he was going to make an off airport landing and was trying to stay away from any buildings.

Witnesses in the accident area noted the airplane flying at a very low altitude with some reporting the engine sounds being erratic. Witnesses saw the airplane continue to fly lower in altitude until losing sight of it. They then saw a fireball.

The accident site was located in the Big Bend State Park Recreational Area. The main wreckage was located 4.6 NM southwest of IFP. The airplane first hit a mesquite tree, then impacted the sand, and finally came to rest 120 feet south of the first impact point facing 273 degrees. The post impact fire thermally consumed a majority of the aircraft.

The accident site was documented, and the wreckage was recovered for further examination.
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James Dale Walker, United States Air Force Colonel (Retired), died suddenly on May 17, 2015 following a tragic private plane crash in Laughlin, Nevada. His cherished wife Evelyn was with him and later lost her life on May 20, 2015.

Our Dad was born on February 16, 1943 to Amalia and Peter Walker. He was the youngest of five children and grew up in his beloved Sheboygan, Wisconsin. During Dad’s 72 years’, he served many roles faithfully. He was a devoted and loving follower of the Lutheran Church, a Son, a Grandson, a Brother, a Patriot, a Husband, a Father, and a Nephew, an Uncle, a Colleague and a Counselor.

During Dad’s service in the Air Force he served with Distinction in defense of his country as a Security Police Officer and Commander, honorably retiring in 1994 after serving more than 24 years’. While active duty he served in Vietnam and in support of Operation Desert Storm, receiving numerous decorations, medals, commendations and ribbons including the Bronze Star.

After retiring from the military he did not stay idle, pursing his life’s passion of being a therapist and counselor, especially for children. He spent the last 9 ½ years’ working tirelessly as a Therapist with Arizona’s Children Association. He was devout in his faith and active in his church, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Goodyear, Arizona. His other passion was education, receiving a B.S. in English, a M.A. in Public Administration and a M.Ed. in Counseling. In addition to being an accomplished scholar, he constantly attended trainings to hone his skills, committed to continuous learning and self- improvement.

He was admired and loved by all who knew his genuine and selfless care for others. He was extraordinary in so many ways, yet very humble giving all the glory to God. He was an effective leader who devoted his life to putting others needs first and serving, whether it be his church, his family, his country, or the countless families he counseled. He was a strong family man with a great sense of humor and a contagious laugh. Dad had a gift for listening and always asking the right questions to provoke self-reflection and ownership.

He is predeceased by his beloved parents, infant sister Corrine and brother, Peter. He is survived by his three sisters Betty Hahn, Gloria Murray and Kathleen Walker; four children: Allen Roth, Samantha Walker Perry, Becky Pickering and Melinda Greene; six grandchildren, six nieces, five nephews and numerous cousins, grand nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind the unnamed, untold number of colleagues and friends for which he cared, helped, prayed and touched in special ways.

Dad’s legacy is the handprints he’s left on the many lives he touched. We will honor his and Evelyn’s lives at a Memorial Service at 2:30 p.m., Saturday June 6, 2015 at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Goodyear. During the service Dad will receive well merited military honors. A reception will follow at the church. Dad will later be interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona joined forever with his adored wife, Evelyn.


In lieu of flowers, please send donations in the memory of Colonel James D. and Evelyn Walker to The Roever Foundation, St. Jude’s Hospital or Children’s Miracle Network.
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Diana M. Soto went to be with the Lord on May 20, 2015. She was born in New York, NY on June 15, 1957 to the late Laurentino and Carmen Soto. Diana spent almost 20 years with the New York City Police Department. After her retirement in 1999 she and her lifelong love Gregory Torres moved to Arizona. Diana is survived by Gregory as well as her siblings Raymond Soto, Lawrence (Esther) Soto, Carmen (Joseph) Coniglio, Walter (Alma) Soto, and William Soto. Also surviving are her three stepsons, six grandchildren, ten nieces and thirteen nephews. Family and friends are invited to a gathering on Friday, July 3, 2015 from 9:30-10:30AM at Holy Cross Catholic Mortuary, 9925 W. Thomas Road, Avondale, AZ with a prayer service starting at 10:30AM. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Sun Valley Animal Shelter, 7150 N.110th Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85307.
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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - The Clark County Coroner's Office has confirmed two other deaths have been linked to Sunday's Laughlin plane crash.

A small aircraft with four people on board departed Laughlin-Bullhead City airport Sunday and was heading to the Phoenix area before it crashed.

According to the NTSB, the single-engine Rockwell Commander flew for about four minutes before crashing, hitting a tree and erupting in flames.

The Clark County Fire Department first reported the plane crash just before 6 p.m. Sunday near the Big Bend State Recreation Area along Needles Highway.

Firefighters said they found the aircraft ablaze and four people on board when they arrived on scene.

Authorities confirmed one person was pronounced dead on the scene. The Coroner identified him as 72 year-old James Walker of Avondale, Arizona.

Three people on board were transported to UMC, two of whom passed away Wednesday.

The Coroner identified them as 58-year-old Diana Soto of Goodyear, AZ and 64-year-old Evelin Walker of Avondale, AZ.

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