Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Downer Bellanca 14-19-2, N7658B: Accident occurred March 28, 2022 in Prosser, Benton County, Washington

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 Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Spokane, Washington

Location: Prosser, Washington 
Accident Number: WPR22LA136
Date and Time: March 26, 2022, 07:50 Local 
Registration: N7658B
Aircraft: DOWNER BELLANCA 14-19-2
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On March 26, 2022, about 0750 Pacific daylight time, a Downer Bellanca 14-19-2, N7658B, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Prosser, Washington. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot reported that the reason for the flight was to operate the engine at high power, to break-in the piston rings after a new engine cylinder had been installed. He reported performing a thorough preflight, that included a check of the pitch trim system, with no anomalies noted.

Shortly after departure, and before he had reached the intended maneuvering area, he felt a mild vibration. He was initially not concerned, because it felt like prior instances when he had encountered a fouled spark plug or bad spark plug lead. He adjusted engine power and determined that the vibrations were only present at higher power settings. He also adjusted the pitch trim but did not feel any vibration in the trim handle.

He began to maneuver the airplane in a shallow descending turn, when the vibrations came back, but now more pronounced, such that he could feel them through the flight control system. A few sends later he heard a large bang emanating from the tail, followed by violent shuddering and shaking and rapid forward and aft control yoke deflections.

He reduced engine power, and increased back pressure on the control yoke to slow the airplane down, and when he looked back, he could see the elevator and trim tab rapidly oscillating. 

With limited pitch control, he began to maneuver the airplane for a forced landing by modulating engine power to a speed that minimized the vibrations. He judged the descent rate and airspeed to be too high to land, and continued to maneuver the airplane, describing the experience as closer to guiding a falling object rather than flying. He extended the landing gear, and prepared the airplane for a forced landing, and about 50 to 100 ft agl, decided that he was still descending too fast to land. He decided to apply engine power to control pitch attitude, and the airplane appeared to respond, such that the airplane began to flare over a field, although still at a very high speed. The main landing gear touched the ground, and he applied full aft pressure to the control yoke, and the airplane skipped once, touched down again, and eventually came to rest after a ground roll of what he estimated to be about 1,500 ft.

Examination of the airplane revealed that the right horizontal stabilizer had departed, and the left horizontal stabilizer was bent about 10° in the vertical plane. Additionally, although the left elevator remained attached to the horizontal stabilizer by its hinges, its control tube had separated from the center bellcrank. The trim tab remained attached to the left elevator, but its control torque rod had separated within the support tube assembly, such that movement of the trim pushrod did not result in movement of the trim surface.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: DOWNER
Registration: N7658B
Model/Series: BELLANCA 14-19-2
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file 
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: PSC,410 ft msl 
Observation Time: 06:50 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C /6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.88 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Pasco, WA (PSC) 
Destination: Prosser, WA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 46.09001,-119.4289 

Aircraft experienced heavy vibrations and made an emergency landing.

Date: 28-MAR-22
Time: 23:15:00Z
Regis#: N7658B
Aircraft Make: BELLANCA
Aircraft Model: 14-19
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

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