The Airplane Had Climbed To 1,025 Ft MSL, Then Entered A Descending Left Turn Before The Data Ended

Location: Dunnellon, FL Accident Number: ERA21FA029
Date & Time: October 25, 2020, 10:52 Local Registration: N724BC
Aircraft: Cessna 172 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:

On October 25, 2020, at 1052 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172H, N724BC, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Dunnellon, Florida. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight. The pilot, who was also the owner of the airplane held a private pilot certificate for single-engine airplanes with an instrument rating.

A review of preliminary air traffic control (ATC) communications and radar data provided by the FAA revealed that the pilot was not in communication with ATC; however, radar data indicated that the airplane departed to the south from the Back Achers Airport (8FL3), Belleview, Florida, about 1034. He then turned toward the southeast and flew over Lake Weir before turning on a westerly heading toward the Marion County Airport (X35) at an altitude between 1,250 and 1,300 ft mean sea level (msl). Around 1038, the airplane began a slow descent to about 900 ft msl before climbing to about 1,000 ft msl. Between 1051:39 and 1052:02, the airplane decelerated from a groundspeed of about 94 knots to 47 knots. One second later, the airplane had climbed to 1,025 ft msl, then entered a descending left turn before the data ended at 1052:12. At that time, the airplane was at 600 ft msl, a heading of 086°, and a groundspeed of 60 knots.

The airplane impacted a large open field in a nose-low attitude about 1.2 miles north-northeast of X35. The initial impact point was a ground scar that had pieces of the left-wing tip fairing embedded in the dirt. The airplane then traveled about 120 ft before coming to rest. On-scene examination of the airplane revealed that all major components of the airframe were located at the accident site and there was no postimpact fire. Both wings remained attached to the airframe but sustained extensive leading-edge impact damage. The flaps were retracted. The left fuel tank was breached and empty of fuel. The right fuel tank was intact; however, the fuel line was disconnected, and fuel was leaking from the line. A small amount of fuel was recovered from the airplane’s fuel system. The fuel was blue in color and absent of water and debris. The tail section was folded over the top of the airplane and sustained impact damage.

Flight control continuity was established from all major flight control surfaces to the cockpit. The fuel selector valve was in the “both” position. The airframe fuel filter was drained and about 1 tablespoon of cloudy water was removed. The fuel strainer was disassembled, and heavy corrosion was noted in the bowl and on the fuel filter screen.

The engine was partially separated from the firewall and came to rest next to the airplane. The two-bladed propeller remained attached to the engine. One blade was bent aft about 20° and exhibited some leading-edge polishing and the other blade was straight.

The engine was placed on flatbed truck and the top spark plugs were removed and the engine was rotated manually via the propeller. Compression was established on all cylinders except for the No. 6 cylinder which sustained impact damage its pushrods. As the engine was being rotated, valvetrain continuity was established for each cylinder and spark was produced to each magneto ignition lead. The carburetor separated from the engine during impact. The carburetor was disassembled and empty of fuel; however, a small amount of corrosion was observed in the fuel bowl and on the carburetor inlet screen. The airplane was equipped with an electronic engine data monitor, which was removed for further examination and data download.