Sunday, January 26, 2020

Loss of Control on Ground: Aero Commander 680 F, N900L; accident occurred January 27, 2018 at T.W. Spear Memorial Airport (4AL9), Lapine, Alabama

Airplane Wreckage at Accident Site.
Federal Aviation Administration

Front Left Side View of Airplane Wreckage.
Federal Aviation Administration

Fuel Found in the Main Fuel Line From the Electric Boost Pump to the Fuel Controller.
National Transportation Safety Board

Fuel Found in the Left Engine Fuel Strainer Bowl.
National Transportation Safety Board

Hour Meter.
Federal Aviation Administration

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Montgomery, Alabama

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Lapine, AL
Accident Number: ERA18LA073
Date & Time: 01/27/2018, 1140 CST
Registration: N900L
Aircraft: AERO COMMANDER 680 F
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 27, 2018, about 1140 central standard time, an Aero Commander 680F, N900L, was substantially damaged on takeoff from the T.W. Spear Memorial Airport (4AL9), Lapine, Alabama. The commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight was originating from 4AL9 at the time of the accident.

The pilot stated that he had just recently purchased the airplane and had just completed two takeoffs and landings to a full stop and was taking off on runway 4 for a third time when the accident occurred. The pilot said that as he started to rotate, he lost power on the left engine, and the airplane veered to the left and struck trees damaging both wings and the fuselage. The airplane came to rest in a swamp adjacent to the runway. The pilot said the left engine was not running and he had to shut down the right engine before exiting the airplane.

The previous owner stated that the airplane had not been flown since 2005 or 2006. He had just sold the airplane to the pilot, and a mechanic (hired by the pilot) completed and signed-off on an annual inspection two days before the accident on January 25, 2018. The previous owner told the mechanic that the left engine fuel controller had been malfunctioning and the boost pump had to remain on until the engine warmed-up. He believed that controller needed to be overhauled or replaced. A review of the maintenance logbooks found no entry regarding the inspection or flush of the airplane's fuel system. However, there was an entry in both the left and right engine logbooks that stated, "checked fuel injector and inspected fuel system" but no fuel components were replaced.

Both the mechanic and the pilot said they ran the engines after the annual inspection and did several high-speed taxi checks and all was normal. The pilot also said he flew the airplane for 30 minutes the day before the accident with no discrepancies noted.

At the time of the annual inspection, the airframe had 3,562.5 total flight hours, the left engine had 42.2 hours, and the right engine had 466.7 hours. According to the airplane's hour meter, when the accident occurred, the airplane had accrued .2 hours (about 10-15 minutes) since the annual inspection.

The mechanic stated that he purchased 100LL fuel at a nearby airport and placed about 100 gallons in the airplane's center tank and about 5 gallons in the auxiliary tanks to make sure they weren't leaking. The previous owner said he observed the mechanic sump "a great deal of fuel" prior to the flight. According to the company that recovered the airplane, about 135 gallons of 100LL blue aviation fuel was recovered from the center tank. The fuel was absent of debris and water.

In a postaccident examination, the left engine crankshaft was rotated via manual rotation of the propeller and valve train and compression were established on each cylinder. The right magneto sparked at all ignition leads. The left magneto was removed and the leads were cut at each terminal. A power drill was used to spin the magneto and spark was observed at each terminal. The spark plugs were removed and were gray in color and exhibited normal wear as per the Champion Check-A-Plug chart. No mechanical deficiencies were observed that would have precluded normal operation of the engine at the time of the accident.

The fuel selectors for both engines were found in the "center" tank position. Examination of the electric boost pump revealed it and the area around the pump was dirty and littered with mud-daubers. When power was applied to the pump, it did not operate. The main fuel line from the electric boost pump to the fuel controller was disassembled and shop air was blown thru the line. Fuel from the line was captured in a mason jar and was a yellowish color. The fuel smelled like auto-gas and small bubbles of water were observed. The fuel strainer that was installed between the electric boost pump and the fuel controller was removed. The screen was absent of debris. A plastic syringe was used to drain the fuel from the strainer-bowl. The fuel was black in appearance and smelled like auto gas.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine and multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate and had a type-rating for a Douglas DC-3 airplane. The pilot's last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical was issued on January 20, 2017. At that time, he reported a total of 3,000 flight hours. The pilot told an FAA inspector that he had accumulated about 15-20 hours in an Aero Commander, but that was about 25 years prior to the accident.

According to the airplane's flight manual emergency procedures section, the procedure for an engine failure on takeoff at speeds over 105 MPH (91 knots) is:

A. Push prop controls FULL FORWARD.

B. Throttles 48" Hg.

C. Landing gear UP

D. Flaps UP slowly

E. Maintain heading and airspeed (105 - 115 MPH desired) (91-100 knots).

F. Fully determine inoperative engine.

G Feather prop on inoperative engine.

H. Close mixture on inoperative engine.

I. Reduce power on operating engine to rated HP (320) 45" - 3200 RPM

J. Ignition switch Off, Fuel Off, Generator Off on inoperative engine

K. Booster pump ON

L. Trim aircraft as required.

The pilot said that he did not use a checklist during the flight and that a checklist was not provided with the airplane when he purchased it.

Weather at the Mac Crenshaw Memorial Airport (PRN), Greenville, Alabama, about 21 miles north, at 1156, was reported as wind from 110° at 11 knots, visibility 10 miles, overcast clouds at 10,000 ft, temperature 16°, dewpoint 11°, altimeter setting 30.34 inches of mercury.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/30/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 01/31/2017
Flight Time: 3000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 20 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N900L
Model/Series: 680 F F
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 680F-1341-136
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 01/25/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 8093 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3562.7 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: IGSO-540B1A
Registered Owner: Arkansas Round Engine
Rated Power:380 
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: PRN, 451 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 21 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1156 CST
Direction from Accident Site: 360°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 10000 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 11 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 110°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.34 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Lapine, AL (4AL9)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Lapine, AL (4AL9)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1140 CST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 438 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 04
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2909 ft / 30 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  31.000000, -86.000000 (est)


  1. The details laid out by interviews and statements in the docket are certainly very interesting if you read and understand and compare it all. Tremendous courage in making that "day before" familiarization flight and those two takeoffs with landings before the mishap.

    Picture yourself at the controls of that Commander. No checklist, but the airframe and those supercharged engines are back in service after 14 years not flying. You hold the brakes and bring those engines up to 47” mp and 3500 RPM. Almost a Bob Hoover Shrike Commander moment as you start the roll.

    And all of your multiple flights and testing is being done at this no-nonsense field: