The Pilot Told (ATC), “…Having Problems With Both Engines”

Location: Charleston, SC Accident Number: ERA20LA132
Date & Time: 03/21/2020, 1859 EDT Registration: N8080M
Aircraft: Cessna 310 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Personal

On March 21, 2020, about 1859 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 310I, N8080M, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Charleston, South Carolina. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

On March 18, 2020, the pilot departed Zephyrhills Municipal Airport (ZPH), Zephyrhills, Florida and landed at South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey, about 2030. The airplane remained on the ramp until March 21, 2020, when the pilot departed VAY for ZPH. The pilot landed at Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport (RWI), Rocky Mount, North Carolina about 1630 for fuel and then continued the flight to ZPH on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

A review of preliminary air traffic control communications and radar data revealed that, about 1852, the airplane was en route to ZPH at an altitude of about 8,000 ft mean sea level (msl). About that time, the pilot told Charleston approach that the airplane was experiencing a loss of engine power and he needed to land immediately at the nearest airport. The Charleston approach controller gave him vectors to Charleston Executive Airport (JZI), and then asked the pilot which engine he was having problems with. The pilot told him “should be my left but having problems with both engines.” The Charleston approach controller provided vectors to the pilot for runway 9 at JZI and radar contact with the airplane was lost about 1/4-mile northwest of the approach end for runway 9 about 1859.

A witness in the Charleston area stated he was on his patio when the airplane flew directly overhead. He said it sounded like “the engine was revving fast to slow as if it was having fuel problems.” He said the airplane sputtered on and off for 15-20 seconds and then he could no longer hear the airplane.

Another witness stated he was in his backyard when the airplane flew over and sounded like it was having issues. It “seemed to stall and then rev back up” several times, as if the airplane “was running out of fuel.”

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the airplane was inverted, and fuel was on the ground around the airplane. The fuel was consistent with 100 low lead aviation fuel.

Examination of the wreckage by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator revealed that both wings were fractured off by impact forces with the trees. Both the main and auxiliary fuel tanks were breached. The fuel selector valves were in the auxiliary fuel tank position. The airplane was equipped with Garmin GTN-750 and G500 multi-function display units, which were removed and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders laboratory for data download.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.