About 200 Feet Above Ground Level (AGL), The Engine Experienced A Total Loss Of Power
Location: Fallbrook, CA Accident Number: WPR22FA265
Date & Time: July 23, 2022, 13:31 Local Registration: N787AS
Aircraft: North American T-28B Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal
On July 23, 2022, at 1331 Pacific daylight time, a North American T-28B, N787AS, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Fallbrook, California. The pilot was serious injured and the pilot-rated passenger was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.
A law enforcement officer interviewed the pilot immediately after the accident. The pilot stated that he and the passenger have been good friends for over 50 years, and both have extensive aviation experience. Earlier in the day, he and the passenger both departed from Chino, California in separate airplanes. The pilot was flying the T-28 and the passenger was flying the pilot’s Cessna 150 with the purpose of dropping it off in Fallbrook. The plan was for them to both leave Fallbrook in the T-28, and stop for lunch in Temecula, California, and then return back to Chino.
The airplanes departed from Chino and the T-28 landed about four minutes ahead of the Cessna. After dropping off the Cessna and talking to people, the pilot performed a pre-flight. The pilot then positioned himself in the front seat and the passenger was in the rear seat. The pilot stated that after takeoff, with the airplane about 200 feet above ground level (agl), the engine experienced a total loss of power. He checked the mixture, power, and fuel, and lowered the nose in an effort to avoid a stall. The airplane collied into a nursery. The pilot estimated about 30 seconds elapsed from the engine failure to the time of impact. After impact, several people helped him exit the airplane by prying the canopy open. The pilot stated that he forgot to open the canopy before impact.
The pilot additionally stated that he is a mechanic and performs the maintenance on the airplane. He recalled the last time he performed any maintenance on the airplane was about six months prior to the accident.
Investigators reviewed video recordings, audio recordings, and flight track data covering the area of the accident during the time surrounding the accident using Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data. A review of the data revealed that the T-28 landed in Fallbrook about 1255. At 1326:01 the airplane taxied to runway 18 and began the takeoff roll about 1331:20. The airplane began the departure roll and was midfield about 12 seconds later at a ground speed of 88 kts. At 1331:44, the airplane was about 300 feet south of the runway identifier markings and the airspeed was 97 kts. The last position recorded was at 1331:49 and located about 160 feet north of the first identified impact point; the airspeed at that point was 94 knots and a heading of about 180°.
The preliminary sound spectrum analysis from a witness’s recorded cell phone video revealed the engine was idling smoothly at about 1,530 rpm. Thereafter, it was running non-smoothly for about 10 seconds as it increased its speed to about 2,420 rpm and the airplane was moving along the runway. The engine was then running smoothly for the next 12 seconds as it passed by the camera. The engine then sounded similar to when it was at idle, and the airplane impact several seconds later.
The accident site was located in a nursery about 1,815 feet from the departure end of runway 36. In character, the debris field was located on upsloping terrain with numerous plants in plastic crates and an asphalt pile toward the end. The main wreckage, consisting of the engine and almost all the fuselage, came to rest upright and the right wing had impacted a greenhouse structure. The wreckage was found distributed over a 415 ft distance on a median magnetic bearing of about 175°.
An on-scene examination revealed no external evidence of catastrophic failure. The forward spark plugs were removed; no mechanical damage was noted and the electrodes and posts exhibited a light ash gray coloration, consistent with normal operation (the No. 6 plug was oil soaked). Upon rotation of the propeller, “thumb” compression was observed in proper order on all nine cylinders. The complete valve train was observed to operate in proper order, and appeared to be free of any pre-mishap mechanical malfunction. Normal “lift action” was observed at each rocker assembly. Both magnetos were found securely clamped at their respective mounting pad. One magneto was timed at 20° before top dead center. Both oil screens were removed and found free of debris. The carburetor sustained impact damage and continuity of the mixture and throttle could not be established.
There was over 50 gallons of fuel found in each inboard wing tank. The fuel selector was in the on position. There was a fluid consistent in odor and appearance found in the carburetor’s fuel strainer reservoir; the screen was clean of debris and no water was detected. The wreckage was taken to a secure facility for a future examination.