Accident Flight Was His First Solo Aerial Surveying Flight For The Company

Location: Danville, VA Accident Number: ERA22FA114
Date & Time: February 1, 2022, 10:06 Local Registration: N622QT
Aircraft: Cessna 310 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Aerial observation

On February 1, 2022, about 1006 eastern standard time, a Cessna 310R airplane, N622QT, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Danville, Virginia. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by Sol Aerial Surveys as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial surveying flight.

The pilot had previously flown aerial surveying in the same make and model of the accident airplane. The accident flight was his first solo aerial surveying flight for the company following several observation flights with the company’s owner. The airplane departed the Danville Regional Airport (DAN), Danville, Virginia, about 1003. A witness reported that the departure looked normal and that he heard nothing other than standard radio transmissions during the airplane’s taxi, takeoff, and departure from the airport area.

According to preliminary Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data, the airplane turned toward the southeast and climbed to an altitude of about 2,300 ft mean sea level (msl) before beginning a descent about two minutes into the flight. The last data point showed the airplane at 1,100 ft msl about 1,150 ft from the accident site with a groundspeed of 168 knots. A nearby landowner who got a brief glimpse of the airplane while on his  tractor reported that it “came in flat” and was “not turning or spinning.”

The airplane impacted a wooded area about 4 nautical miles southeast (104°) of DAN. Severed treetops indicated that the airplane entered the wooded area banked to the right about 30°. The wreckage was highly fragmented along the 382-foot debris path oriented on a true heading of 246°. There was a strong fuel odor but no evidence of fire.

The largest portion of the wreckage, consisting of the empennage, an engine, and the remnants of the cockpit was located about 214 feet beyond the severed treetops at the base of a 16-in diameter pine tree that was broken about 15-20 feet above the ground. The tree had fallen onto the wreckage opposite the airplane’s direction of flight. A second engine was located about 150 ft farther along the debris path. Neither the wings nor the fuselage was intact. The flap setting could not be determined. The landing gear were all fractured off from their mounts and located in various parts of the debris field and their preimpact positions could not be determined. The pitch trim position could not be determined. Six propeller blades were recovered, all fractured from their mounts. All blades displayed impact damage and some displayed leading-edge gouging, chordwise abrasion, twisting and aft bending. None of the propeller blades could be readily identified with the engine on which they were installed, and maintenance records were not immediately available.

No cockpit instruments were intact, and the throttle control quadrant was impact-damaged with all levers fully forward except the left throttle which was fully aft (closed) and the left propeller which was 2/3 aft. The fuel selector for the left engine was found in the OFF position and the fuel selector for the right engine was selected to the left main tank. Flight control continuity could not be confirmed for the elevator, rudder, and aileron due to impact damage. Rudder trim position could not be determined.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.