Saturday, May 23, 2020

Loss of Control in Flight: Cessna 335, N2707J; fatal accident occurred September 09, 2018 near Palm Beach County Park Airport (KLNA), Lake Worth, Florida

Philip and Mandy Castronova

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Miramar, Florida
Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama
Textron; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Lake Worth, FL
Accident Number: ERA18FA244
Date & Time: 09/09/2018, 1037 EDT
Registration: N2707J
Aircraft: Cessna 335
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 9, 2018, at 1037 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 335, N2707J, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident in Lake Worth, Florida. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The airplane had departed Key West International Airport (EYW), about 0936. A review of data recorded by the on-board engine monitor and the primary flight display revealed that, when the airplane was about 9 miles southwest of Palm Beach County Airpark (LNA), descending through an altitude of about 7,000 ft mean sea level (msl) at an airspeed of about 170 knots, the engine exhaust gas temperature (EGT) values for all cylinders on the left engine decreased to below 300°F, consistent with a total loss of engine power. About 2 minutes later, the values all increased to between 900°F and 1,100°F, where they remained for about 2 minutes. The EGT values then rose briefly to about 1,350°F before decreasing again to below 300°F, consistent with a second total loss of engine power. This second loss of engine power occurred as the airplane was on a left downwind leg abeam the runway 16 threshold at LNA, at an altitude of about 1,000 ft msl and an airspeed of about 110 knots. The right engine EGT values remained relatively constant about 1,300°F until the last 30 seconds of data, when they increased to about 1,400°F. The airplane maintained its heading and altitude for about 20 seconds after the loss of engine power before it entered left descending 180° turn. During this turn, the bank angle varied between 0 and 30°. About 5 seconds before the end of the recorded data, the airspeed decreased to about 73 knots, the bank angle increased and the airplane rolled inverted as its pitch increased to 76° nose down.

Several witnesses reported that while the airplane was on approach to runway 16 at LNA, it rolled back and forth, became inverted, then descended to the ground in a spiral and spin.

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  1779 hours (Total, all aircraft), 157 hours (Total, this make and model) 

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records, the pilot did not possess a valid medical or airman certificate. He had previously held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land; however, his certificate was revoked in 1997. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on June 30, 2014, and had expired for all classes in June 2016.

The pilot had owned the airplane since 2011. He received dual instruction in the accident airplane in 2011 and 2012, including one flight annotated in his logbook as "emergency procedures engine outs" in June 2011, and another annotated as "engine out procedures" in May 2012. In the 3 years preceding the accident, he logged 8.2 (2016), 6.4 (2017), and 1.8 (2018) hours in the accident airplane. There were no records of a flight review in his most recent logbook, which dated back to January 1997.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N2707J
Model/Series: 335 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1979
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 335-0023
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/23/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 5990 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3242 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: C91 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: TSIO-520EB
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power:300 hp 
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane total time at the time of the accident could not be determined.

Recent Maintenance

Other than periodic inspections and oil changes, the most recent maintenance entry in the left engine logbook was recorded on September 3, 2014, noting the replacement of cylinder Nos. 1, 3, and 5. The airplane had accrued about 73 hours between this maintenance and the last annual inspection.

Other than periodic inspections and oil changes, the most recent maintenance entry for the right engine (found in the airframe logbook) was performed on June 21, 2018, noting the replacement of cylinder No. 3. That entry was made by the accident pilot, who was not a certificated mechanic. The airplane had accrued about 8 hours between this maintenance and the last annual inspection.

Fuel Information

The airplane was equipped with two main fuel tanks located in the wingtips (each with a capacity of 50 usable gallons), two auxiliary fuel tanks located in the wings (each with a capacity of 31.5 usable gallons), and one wing locker tank installed in the forward portion of the left engine baggage compartment (capacity 20 usable gallons). According to the airplane operating manual, the main tanks were to be used for takeoff, landing, descent, emergency, and the first 90 minutes of flight. The auxiliary tanks were to be used during level cruise flight only. The left wing locker tank did not supply fuel directly to either engine; instead, fuel could be transferred from the wing locker tank to the left main tip tank via an electric transfer pump using a switch in the cockpit. The engine fuel selector valve positions were off, main, auxiliary, and cross-feed.

The airplane was serviced with 50 gallons of fuel on September 5 at LNA, with an order to top off the main fuel tanks. The airplane flew from LNA to EYW uneventfully on September 6; the flight was about 62 minutes. The airplane was fueled with 47 gallons on September 9 at EYW, with an order to top off the auxiliary tanks. The accident flight was about 65 minutes long.

Fuel burn calculations estimated that the total fuel used on the accident flight was about 41 gallons.

Speed Limitations

According to the airplane operating manual, the minimum control speed, noted as "…the minimum flight speed at which the airplane is controllable with one engine inoperative and a 5° bank toward the operative engine," was 83 knots.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: LNA, 14 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1055 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 5°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 2400 ft agl
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None /
Wind Direction: 280°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / 24°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Key West, FL (EYW)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Lake Worth, FL (LNA)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0936 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Palm Beach County Park (LNA)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation:14 ft 
Runway Surface Condition:Dry 
Runway Used: 16
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3421 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing:  Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 26.608889, -80.083333 

The airplane impacted trees and terrain in a park about 1 mile north of LNA. The main wreckage came to rest upright on a heading of about 030° magnetic. The airplane was partially consumed by a post-crash fire. The wreckage path was also oriented about 030° and was about 40 ft in length. The impact area was surrounded by trees; the only damage to branches were those directly above the main wreckage. A series of three ground scars consistent with propeller strikes were located on an asphalt jogging trail along a heading of 030°, which were aligned with and about 15 ft behind the right engine.

The wreckage sustained impact and fire damage; however, all major components of the airplane were present at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit controls to the flight control surfaces. The center and forward fuselage, as well as a large section of the left wing outboard of the left engine, were significantly damaged by postimpact fire. The aft fuselage was partially separated at the aft bulkhead, and the empennage was intact with only minor damage to the right horizontal stabilizer leading edge. The right wing was buckled downward near the right engine, and the leading edge was consumed by fire outboard of the right engine. The split-type flaps were partially extended. The landing gear actuator was found in the extended position.

All five fuel caps were intact and secure. The main fuel tanks were separated from the wing, with no damage to the attach fitting baffle. Both auxiliary fuel tanks were significantly fire damaged and partially consumed. The left wing locker fuel tank was intact and about 15 gallons of fuel were recovered from it. The left fuel selector valve was thermally damaged and remained attached to the wing. When air was applied, the valve was confirmed to be in the main tank position. The right fuel selector valve was thermally and mechanically damaged, remained attached to the control rod only, and appeared to be in the main tank position, but this could not be confirmed with an air test. Both of the cockpit fuel selector handles were found in the auxiliary tank position, the linkages between the handles and the valves were impact and fire damaged.

Both mixture controls were found near the cutoff position. The right propeller lever was near the low pitch position. The left propeller lever was near mid-travel. The right throttle was near the full-forward position. The left throttle was near mid-travel. All throttle quadrant control levers were folded over and bent toward the left.

The right engine remained attached to the wing and was impact and thermally damaged. The propeller remained attached to the engine. All three propeller blades were bent and twisted aft and displayed chordwise scratches and leading-edge gouges.

The left engine remained attached to the wing with its cowling intact and was impact and thermally damaged. All 6 cylinders produced thumb compression when the engine was rotated by hand. Valve train, camshaft, and crankshaft continuity were confirmed. A borescope examination of each cylinder revealed no anomalies. The oil filter was opened and contained no debris. Both magnetos produced spark on all towers when rotated with an electric drill. The top sparkplugs were removed, and all appeared "normal" in color and condition when compared to a Champion Check-a-Plug chart. The engine-driven fuel pump was impact damaged near the bellows. The drive coupling was intact, the pump rotated freely, and the vanes were intact. The fuel metering unit was intact with the control cable attached. The inlet screen was unobstructed. The fuel manifold was intact and its screen was unobstructed. The manifold cavity contained a small amount of debris, which was attracted to a test magnet. The ports in the cavity were unobstructed. The propeller was separated at the propeller flange. Two blades remained attached to the propeller hub, one of which was largely undamaged. The second blade was bent slightly about 8 inches from the root and again about 24 inches from the root; the blade displayed a slight twist. The third blade was separated from the hub and was largely undamaged. Examination of the left propeller assembly at the manufacturer's facility with oversight by the FAA revealed that the blades were at the low pitch stops at the time of impact. No anomalies were found. 

Medical And Pathological Information

An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Office of the District Medical Examiner, District 15 – State of Florida; the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries. Examination of the heart found calcified yellow plaques and green-brown grumous plaques in the native left anterior descending, left circumflex, and right coronary arteries, with luminal stenosis of greater than 75%, greater than 90%, and approximately 100%, respectively.

Toxicology testing performed on the pilot by the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory identified 0.132 (µg/mL) of diphenhydramine in cavity blood. Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine available over-the-counter in many products used to treat colds, allergies, and insomnia. The therapeutic range is 0.0250 to 0.1120 ug/mL. It causes sedation and can result in impaired cognitive and psychomotor performance. Diphenhydramine undergoes postmortem distribution and central levels may be 3 times higher than peripheral levels.

Additional Information

Data recovered from the on-board engine monitor included parameters for each cylinder's head temperature and exhaust gas temperature, the turbocharger inlet temperature, and battery voltage. The unit typically records additional parameters such as fuel flow, engine RPM, engine manifold pressure, and engine oil temperature and pressure. It could not be determined if these parameters were not present due to the damage to the engine monitor (it could not be downloaded using the normal procedures for an intact unit) or if they were not connected when the unit was installed. The airplane was equipped with other non-recording instruments that displayed this information to the pilot.

The FAA Airplane Flying Handbook defined minimum control speed (Vmc) as:

The minimum flight speed at which the airplane is controllable with a bank of not more than 5 [degrees] into the operating engine when one engine suddenly becomes inoperative and the remaining engine is operating at takeoff power… At low airspeed and high-power conditions, the downward moving propeller blade of each engine develops more thrust than the upward moving blade…When the right engine is operative and the left engine is inoperative, the turning force is greater… In other words, directional control is more difficult when the left engine (the critical engine) is suddenly made inoperative.

Mandy Castronova, 39 and Philip Castronova, 70


  1. [Sigh]...Another rogue unqualified "pilot" flying a questionably maintained aircraft, and two die. Fortunately there were none on the ground to get caught up with his apparent egotistical personality (IE: rules don't apply to me because I have money).

    According to this report, his 16.4 hours in the aircraft logged in the three years prior to the crash as well as there being no record dating back as far as to January 1997 of having an annual flight review are all far different facts than the glowing comments from those who knew him in the below article. Never mind the FAA yanked his ticket two decades ago prior to the crash.

    ^^A standout comment from one of his buddies:

    “We did everything together. We flew together. We fixed planes together...”

    This pilot clearly had no A&P rating and was not qualified to even turn a screw on any aircraft. The question is who did the engine work on this aircraft and did that/those persons have an A&P rating that was current and up to date? I've known these kinds of rogue people in aviation. Stay away from them because they will eventually get you killed.

    1. Accurate perspective.

      Looks like autopsy possible found massive heart blockages too.

      It appears the left engine failed yet pilot choose to make left turning pattern flight possibly resulting in VMC roll. Fortunately no one on ground killed. Doubt passenger knew his license expired years ago.

  2. State bird of Florida - guy with more money than brains, married to a woman 30+ years his junior. She bet on the fact that she could outlast him, but clearly didn't account for this.

    1. She wasn't the first, and she surely won't be the last. Makes me wonder who is out there no repeating this stupidity who we will eventually read about on KT a year or two from now. Seems to be a repeat pattern.

  3. I used to own Cessna 335 N2707Q but back in 1985 when it was almost new... Wonderful airplane to fly never a problem with it. Wish I still had it BUT not now it would be 41 years old..The engine TBO was ? only 1200 or 1400 hours, I think short TBO allowance because of the turbo chargers wearing out the cylinders faster than "normally-aspirated" non-turbo engines.So I had to sell it at 1100 TT It went to Venezuela ? Drug Runner?

  4. I flew out of a USAF base Aero Club in Florida in the late 1980s and we obtained two former drug planes confiscated by the DEA used for multi-engine training. One was a 310 and the other a 414. Both were former South American planes so there's a chance your bird became one. Big time runners use them as expendable mules however. So if that was the case for yours, it's likely long gone to either a crash or abandoned in some remote area down there with a tree growing through it.

  5. Anyone else struck by the sight of the bystanders standing right beside the burning airplane in the pictures? Every action movie I've ever seen involves a burning car, plane, or boat which explodes. That alone would encourage me to keep my distance...

    1. Not the thugs in Minneapolis. Just sayin'
      That alone would encourage me to keep my distance.

    2. Thugs in US cities -

      It should go without saying that, in a civilized society, rioting is unacceptable. Ransacking stores and setting fire to buildings is wrong. These truths ought to be self-evident. Somehow, for large sections of the commentariat, they are not.

      Isn’t 2020 fun?

    3. While I agree with the gist of your comment, how did we get there and how does one of the richest countries on Earth have such a disparity and so much anger among its citizens?
      It surely is easy to just condemn these actions and the perpetrators than looking a bit further into it, just like flying an aircraft requires the big picture and being ahead of it...
      Everything public and social (before jerking your knees, look up what the words actually mean) which is the base for a stable, competent, independent and truly free society, such as education, health care, workers rights, public transportation etc. has been neglected for decades, to be fed by some miracle trickles coming down from who knows where.
      The whole idea of a government is to bundle resources to take the burden off peoples' shoulders, to have fewer worries and the time to do more with one's life than just to work hard and struggle as in "3rd World" countries, which in the US is somehow perversely glorified. And perhaps, just perhaps, be able to really pursue happiness.
      Think what a "developed" nation really means - developed into something well balanced, a nation of responsible, calm, well mannered and well educated adults, not frenzied man-children that have no real perspective because their own elected officials constantly let them down - how can it be legal to not pay living wages, to allow loan-sharks and all other kinds of filthy sleazy creatures taking advantage of your own citizens - and expect (and shame into or praise) others to make up with tips, food bank donations and charity in the richest country while giving tax breaks and bail-outs to those "too big too fail", aka capitalistic communism, while making fun of many things that define a developed nation and society and looking down on those unfortunate, often uneducated and downtrodden people - how perverted is that? People living with constant fear of poverty, sickness, police brutality and a perverted "justice" system (private prisons, lay ("peer") juries to rule and DAs who help private prisons and want to advance their (political) careers by being tough, lackadaisical test standards and pseudo-scientific tests that can get you locked up etc.) while being told its entirely their own fault and rich people and politicians flaunt their wealth and wisdom on every media channel.

      Sorry for this rant, but I cannot stand these schmuck comments of those who are probably better off, after all many of us here on KR can afford to (train to) fly aircraft, and feel entitled to look down upon those unfortunate in a society that is very much rigged and freedom has become an excuse and euphemism for neglect and dilapidation.

    4. These are not protests, these are riots. This was also not a spontaneous response to Floyd’s death. These are well organized and well-funded anarchist/communists using this as an opportunity to spread destruction. Also, clearly if they are willing to cause this much mayhem in public, they shouldn’t have a problem with voting in person.

    5. CNN says they aren't looting, they are undocumented shoppers.

    6. Can you cite one speck of hard evidence of the benefits of "diversity" that we have heard gushed about for years?

  6. Truly unbelievable....
    While this Dumb A$$ didn't feel the need to heed the Law or FAA Regulations.
    His Arrogance was judged by the LAW of Physics and Aerodynamics.
    Justice was swift and Justice was served.