Examination Of The Engine Revealed A Hole In The Crankcase Near The No. 4 Cylinder

Location: Panama City, FL Accident Number: ERA22FA261
Date & Time: June 6, 2022, 16:10 Local Registration: N160LL
Aircraft: Piper PA-28RT-201 Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On June 6, 2022, about 1610 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28RT-201, N160LL, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Panama City, Florida. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and another passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The morning of the accident, the airplane arrived at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), Panama City, Florida, and parked on a local fixed based operator (FBO) ramp at 0941. About 1100, the FBO moved the airplane closer to the edge of the ramp because the pilot and passengers were not returning until later in the day.

A review of security camera video revealed that the pilot returned to the airplane about 1530. He opened the baggage compartment, entered and exited the cockpit multiple times, walked around the front of the airplane, and only stopped in front of each wing, never the engine or cowling, until the two passengers arrived at 1541. At 1551, the airplane began to taxi and exited the FBO ramp.

According to preliminary Automatic Dependent System Broadcast (ADS-B) data, which began at 1551:55, the airplane began the takeoff roll about 1606. After the airplane reached a peak altitude of about 1,200 ft mean sea level (msl) it began to descend and initiated a 180° left turn. The airplane completed the turn, continued to descend, and impacted trees and terrain about 1.7 miles from the threshold of runway 34. The ADS-B data ended about 190 ft south of the main wreckage.

The airplane came to rest upright in an area of dense brush at an elevation of 25 ft. All major components of the airplane were located in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The leading edge of both wings exhibited impact damage along the entire span. The flaps were extended to 40° and the landing gear was in the extended position. The left side of the empennage was partially impact separated and was bent to the right side of the airplane. The horizontal stabilator, vertical stabilizer, and rudder all remained attached to the empennage. Flight control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to the flight control surfaces. Oil was noted along the right bottom side of the fuselage.

Examination of the engine revealed a hole in the crankcase near the No. 4 cylinder. The engine was disassembled and continuity of the crankshaft was confirmed. There were no anomalies noted on the main journals of the crankshaft. The No. 4 connecting rod journal exhibited thermal damage and bearing material was found welded/smeared to the crankshaft journal. The No. 4 connecting rod cap, connecting rod bolts, and bearing pieces were found in the oil sump along with other metallic debris and a trace amount of oil. The oil drain plug remained seated and safety wired to the oil sump. The oil pump rotated freely by hand. It was disassembled and no scoring was noted on the oil pump gears or the housing. The oil pressure sensor was separated from the engine. The copper line was fractured at the fitting to the accessory section of the crankcase. The copper line and oil pressure sensor were retained for further examination.

Examination of the pavement in the parking area of the FBO revealed a trail of oil drops that led to a small puddle of oil where the airplane was initially parked. A second larger area of oil staining that measured about 6 ft by 6 ft, was found at the 2nd parking location (where the airplane had been moved by the FBO  personnel), which was where the pilot conducted his walk-around and loaded passengers before he started the engine for taxi and takeoff.

According to a copy of the most recent annual inspection, which was completed on May 11, 2022, the airplane had a tachometer time of 508.6 hours. At the time of the annual inspection, a new avionics system was installed which included a Dynon Skyview HDX and a Dynon EFISD10A. Both units were retained and sent for data download at the NTSB Recorders Laboratory. According to a flight log located in wreckage, on June 5, 2022, the airplane had a tachometer time of 511.5 hours. Furthermore, on May 25, 2022, a flight was performed by the pilot, and it indicated “Fly Test” next to his name.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov