Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Grumman TBM-3, N337VT: Accident occurred May 06, 2018 in Fort Apache, Navajo County, Arizona

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

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

Location: Fort Apache, AZ
Accident Number: ANC18LA034
Date & Time: 05/06/2018, 1338 MST
Registration: N337VT
Aircraft: GRUMMAN TBM-3
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 6, 2018, about 1338 mountain standard time, a Grumman TBM-3E airplane, N337VT, is presumed to have impacted terrain following the bailout of the pilot and passenger due to a partial loss of engine power about 8 miles southwest of Mount Baldy, on the Fort Apache Reservation, Arizona. The private pilot and the pilot-rated passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane is presumed to be destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 visual flight rules flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed the Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Maricopa, Arizona, at 1251 destined for the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ), Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to relocate a newly purchased airplane from a maintenance facility in Stockton, California, to an airport near the pilot's home in Illinois. The airplane had undergone refurbishment as well as condition inspections, during the previous 6 months. Prior to the repositioning flights, the airplane was loaded with substantial emergency and survival gear. Also, in preparation for the trip, the pilot and passenger watched the parachute manufacturer's safety video and the pilot provided an emergency brief and had the passenger practice opening the canopy and prepare for egress.

On the morning of the accident, the airplane flew from the Zamperini Field Airport (TOA) in Torrance, California, to A39. After the pilot refueled the airplane, it departed A39 to the east and climbed to an altitude between 11,500 ft and 12,000 ft. About 45 minutes into the flight, as the airplane approached the route over the highest elevation of the trip, the pilot and passenger heard a loud bang with vibrations and witnessed thick smoke entering the cockpit. The pilot stated that following the event, the engine was operating but not producing enough power to maintain altitude. The passenger stated that he observed sheets of oil exiting the right side of the engine cowling. As the airplane descended, the pilot determined there were no safe landing areas due to trees and terrain, so he decided to bailout about 2,500 ft above ground level (agl).

The passenger bailed out first followed by the pilot. Both parachutes deployed successfully, however the pilot and passenger received serious injuries after landing in trees and falling to the ground. They were unable to call for rescue due to the lack of cell phone coverage in the area, however on the following morning about 1100, a Fort Apache fire service truck that was passing through the area, found the survivors and they were subsequently transported to a nearby medical facility via ambulance.

A review of Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control radar data revealed that after the bailout the airplane continued eastbound on a stable descending flight path. The last radar return was at 10,000 ft mean sea level (msl), or about 1,900 ft agl. The airplane has not been located and is presumed to have impacted terrain in the area. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Aircraft Manufacturer: GRUMMAN
Registration: N337VT
Model/Series: TBM-3 E
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCNY, 4560 ft msl
Observation Time: 1953 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / -6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots, 140°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.15 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: MARICOPA, AZ (A39)
Destination: ALBUQUERQUE, NM (ABQ) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Unknown
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: Unknown
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 2 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 38.814444, -109.653889 (est)

Ron Carlson has been restoring a World War II vintage Grumman TBM Avenger since he brought it over from Australia.

He was flying it back to the Chicago area, from Phoenix, Arizona over a mountain range on the White River Reservation Saturday when something went wrong.

"At the worst possible moment, we were in cruise, everything looked good," he said. "I was on the instruments and a big bang in front, and everything just started shaking."

Carlson says smoke began to pour from the plane’s engine, while he and his friend Kenny looked for a place to put it down--but they saw only trees.

"The smoke was getting worse," Carlson said. "Kenny was getting a little itchy back there so I made the decision to leave the airplane."

Kenny went first but held on to the plane.

"When I banked the airplane ... that’s when he let go and I stuck my legs out and just went," Simon recalled.

The two made it to the mountainside injured and separated. They had no water.

"I literally said to myself: this is it," he said. "It's like people say, you think of your loved ones, not only how sad they would be but the one thing I thought--the biggest thing I thought--was I am not going to get to see my boys grow up."

"That’s when you kind get mad and say I am getting out of here," he added.

Carlson spent the night on a bed of pine needles.

The pair reunited the next morning, then started to hike down the mountain. Kenny went ahead when they saw a gravel road and he came back with help from the reservation.

"An hour later I was taking a rest and boom, a pickup truck comes by with Kenny in it," Carlson said. "So I know at that point, the adrenaline just went out and the next thing I knew I had a cold Gatorade in my hands--so that was the best thing."

Story and video ➤  https://www.nbcchicago.com