Saturday, January 02, 2021

Piper PA-46-350P M350, N350XL: Accident occurred January 11, 2020 in Bandera, Texas

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.

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida 

Location: Bandera, TX 
Accident Number: CEN20LA058
Date & Time: January 11, 2020, 17:20 Local
Registration: N350XL
Aircraft: Piper PA-46 
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted
Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On January 11, 2020, about 1720 central standard time, a Piper PA-46-350P, N350XL, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Bandera, Texas. The pilot and 1 passenger were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot reported that he was on a local flight and filed and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan. He took off from the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and his intention was to return to SAT after the flight. Takeoff was normal and the airplane performed as expected. After being cleared to climb to 24,000 ft, he heard what seemed to be some sort of sound as if metal was rubbing against metal," and the sound subsided. The pilot continued the flight and all engine performance indications were as expected. The pilot asked Air Traffic Control (ATC) to start his return to SAT. Descending through about 11,000 ft, ATC cleared the pilot to descend and maintain 6,000 ft. While descending, a CAS message, "AVI FAN Fail," message appeared on the primary flight display (PFD). The message was white in color. He consulted his Garmin 1000 (G1000) reference guide to decode the CAS message and to see the recommended procedure for troubleshooting the code. The pilot stated that since the CAS message was white in color, he thought that it was "advisory" in nature, because the manual stated that a "white" CAS message was Advisory, "yellow," was Caution, and "red" was Warning.

As the pilot was consulting the G1000 manual, smoke started to come into the cabin from the front of the cockpit. The pilot immediately suspected an electrical fire. He disconnected the autopilot, lowered the landing gear, turned the battery master switch off, dumped cabin pressure, and turned the EMER switch on. As a precaution, he also pulled the hydraulic pump circuit breaker just in case it was the cause of the electrical fire. The pilot had his passenger read out the emergency checklist for an electrical fire. After completing the checklist, the pilot radioed a "Mayday." Meanwhile, the pilot searched for the nearest airport to land, which was about 13 miles from his position. The airplane was in a 600-foot per minute descent. Smoke was still coming into the cabin, and the pilot's "eyes were burning," The pilot decided that he had to land the airplane without delay because of the potential fire. A red "X" indication appeared on the manifold pressure gauge as the pilot was descending. The airplane seemed to be descending at a higher rate of descent than the pilot expected. 

The airplane was about 3,000-4,000 ft MSL and the terrain in the area was between 1,000-,2,000 ft AGL. The pilot thought that he did not have much time to land given the higher than expected rate of descent. He decided to land the airplane in what appeared to be a flat field directly ahead. The pilot chose his landing point in the field, and as the airplane got closer, the pilot saw that the field appeared to be a large field made up of three rectangular fields separated by fences, and the last fence was followed by thick trees. The pilot decided to land in the third field and planned on braking heavy to stop. Approaching the landing point, the pilot added one notch of flaps in, crossed over a fence, and the airplane landed. The pilot immediately realized that he was fast, and a collision with the another fence and trees would be unavoidable. The pilot thought that he had enough airspeed and momentum to try to clear the fence and trees, maybe even land on top of them rather than into them, so he rotated the airplane and cleared the obstacles. He immediately turned the airplane to the right and landed the airplane on an adjacent roadway. Upon landing, the airplane contacted a street sign post with the right wing and the airplane spun 90-degrees to the right, coming to rest with the nose against a roadway guardrail. The pilot and passenger exited the airplane and called for assistance. The outboard section of the right wing sustained substantial damage.

Because the airplane recovery was delayed, the valuable avionics were documented and removed from the airplane at the accident site, and the airplane needed to be partially disassembled for transport to an examination facility. The airplane was reassembled at the facility and a detailed examination was performed under the supervision of an FAA airworthiness inspector. All removed avionics were
reinstalled as they were original in the airplane by a certified A&P technician under the supervision of the FAA inspector. The airplane's avionics were powered up and a methodical examination was performed on each electrical system, including the avionics cooling fans. After confirming that the pilot's side avionics cooling fan would not operate when connected to an electrical power source, the fan was disassembled. After removing the fan blades from the motor assembly, an area of thermal damage and discoloration was observed on the circuit board. Photographs of the fan assembly were immediately sent to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC), and an NTSB fire specialist was consulted. The NTSB fire specialist stated that the damage to the fan circuit board would likely have produced smoke and the smoke would probably be irritating to the eyes, which was consistent with the pilot reported. No other damage or electrical anomalies were found during the examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N350XL
Model/Series: PA-46-350P
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SAT,809 ft msl 
Observation Time: 16:51 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 15°C /1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 20°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.12 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: San Antonio, TX (SAT)
Destination: San Antonio, TX (SAT)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: In-flight
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 29.44,-98.580001 (est)