Saturday, December 14, 2019

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Beech A36TC Bonanza, N136RM; fatal accident occurred August 12, 2018 near Whiteman Airport (KWHP), Los Angeles, California

Scott Frazier Watson 

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Sylmar, CA
Accident Number: WPR18FA219
Date & Time: 08/12/2018, 1345 PDT
Registration: N136RM
Aircraft: Beech A36TC
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On August 12, 2018, about 1345 Pacific daylight time, a Beech A36TC airplane, N136RM, impacted terrain near Sylmar, California, after declaring an emergency while approaching Whiteman Airport (WHP), Los Angeles, California. The private pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to the pilot, who was operating it as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated from Placerville Airport, (PVF), Placerville, California, about 1200 and was destined for WHP.

Review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control transcripts revealed that, as the pilot was descending through 3,700 ft, and just after being instructed to contact the WHP tower controller, he made a mayday call. The pilot reported that the airplane was descending and that he was looking for a place to land. He stated that he was unable to make WHP because he had "no throttle, no engine at all."

Witnesses reported that they saw the airplane flying southbound about 30 to 40 ft above the interstate when it turned east and descended below terrain into a nearby field.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/14/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/03/2016
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 478 hours (Total, all aircraft), 148 hours (Total, this make and model), 441 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N136RM
Model/Series: A36TC
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1980
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: EA97
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 09/15/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 52 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3870.66 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Continental Motors
ELT: Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: TSIO-520-UB
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 300
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: VNY, 802 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1351 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 190°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 140°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 32°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Placerville, CA (PVF)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Whiteman, CA (WHP)
Type of Clearance: VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1200 PDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Whiteman Airport (WHP)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 1003 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry; Vegetation
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None 
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.295556, -118.469167 

The airplane came to rest in a field east of and adjacent to the interstate. The first identified point of impact was a strip of disturbed dirt with a fragment of grey paint. About halfway through the length of the disturbed dirt strip and to the right of the strip of dirt, was a paralleling disturbed strip of dirt, followed by a large disturbed area and the nose landing gear strut. Next, there was an approximate 80-ft section of mostly undisturbed grass with pieces of plexiglass, the left wingtip, and nose gear landing door scattered throughout the area. The main wreckage was located at the end of the debris path. The forward fuselage was heavily damaged; the airplane's engine, firewall, and instrument panel were fractured from the right side of the fuselage and bent to the left of the airplane; and the engine came to rest upside down. The front seats were exposed, and the remaining cabin area was mostly intact. The left wing was bent aft at the root and fractured midspan. The outboard section was bent aft underneath the inboard section and came to rest with the leading edge facing aft. The aft fuselage and empennage were mostly intact and undamaged. The right wing was mostly whole; however, the rear spar was fractured at the root and the forward portion of the wing was bent downward.

Examination of the airframe revealed flight control continuity throughout the airframe. The flaps were in the retracted position, and the landing gear was in the extended position. About 12 gallons of fuel was removed from the right wing, and fuel was observed exiting the breached left main fuel tank during the recovery process. The fuel selector faceplate was fracture separated. The fuel selector was removed from the airframe and air was blown through the selector; it was positioned to the left main fuel tank.

The engine remained mostly intact; the spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal operating signatures. The engine was rotated by hand and continuity was noted to the aft cylinders; in addition, the magnetos' distributor gears rotated. Borescope examination of the engine revealed normal operating signatures. The engine was prepared for shipment to the manufacturer for further examination.

Due to impact-related damage, the engine could not be test run. A teardown examination of the engine revealed no pre-accident anomalies that would have precluded the production of rated power. The crankshaft was fractured aft of the propeller flange. The spark plugs, cylinders, and piston heads were removed and exhibited normal operating signatures. The turbocharger was removed and no scoring was noted on the impeller housing. The fuel pump sustained impact damage and could not be tested; all internal components exhibited normal operating wear signatures. The crankcase was split and the crankshaft, camshaft, piston arms, and journals were oily and did not exhibit abnormal or thermal signatures. The magnetos were removed and operated normally when installed onto a test bench. Both the throttle body/fuel metering unit and the fuel manifold operated when installed onto test benches. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Los Angeles, California, performed an autopsy of the pilot and determined the cause of death to be blunt trauma.

The FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot with positive results for fexofenadine, losartan, and azacyclonol, none of which are considered a hazard to flight safety.

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