Passenger Said That The Pilot Reported That He Had Not Flown The Airplane “For A Long Time”
Location: La Belle, FL Accident Number: ERA21FA212
Date & Time: May 6, 2021, 15:20 Local Registration: C-FAAZ
Aircraft: Ted Smith Aerostar 600 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal
On May 6, 2021, about 1520 eastern daylight time, a Ted Smith Aerostar 600, Canadian registration CFAAZ, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near La Belle, Florida. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured, and the pilot-rated passenger was seriously injured. The local personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Preliminary radar data revealed that the airplane departed La Belle Municipal Airport (X14) about 1500.
The radar track showed the airplane in a cruise profile on a westerly track about 3,500 ft and 170 knots groundspeed until it was about 5 miles east of X14, where it began a decelerating descent. The airplane continued its descent and slowed before the target disappeared about .5 miles east of the accident site, when at an altitude of about 200 ft and a groundspeed of 110 knots.
A witness reported to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector that she was travelling eastbound in her car when the airplane appeared immediately in front of her at treetop height travelling westbound. The airplane was in a wings-level attitude and she heard no engine sound. It appeared that the propellers were not turning, and the landing gear was down. The witness believed the airplane would land on the road she was travelling on, when it turned slightly right, struck the top of a tree and then struck the ground in a flat, nose-right attitude, before it continued into trees and a memorial garden on the church property where it came to rest. The witness said that she was familiar with airplanes because her brother operated a flight school, and she had “several hours” of flight experience but no pilot certificate.
A doorbell camera that was located about 500 ft east of the accident site captured the airplane as it passed overhead at low altitude. The engine sound was smooth and continuous as it passed into and out of the camera’s view. Seconds later, the sounds of impact were heard.
The pilot-rated passenger reported that he was the proprietor of an aircraft maintenance facility at X14, and that the pilot, who was also the owner of the airplane brought it to the shop for a 100-hour inspection. He said as they began work on the airplane, they found discrepancies that required more work than originally anticipated. The pilot/owner wanted everything corrected and asked that the shop go ahead and perform a “full annual inspection” on the airplane, which they did.
The work was completed almost 1 month prior to the pilot’s arrival to pick up the airplane on May 6, 2021. When asked about the overall condition of the airplane, as well as its handling and performance, he said, “It was a nice airplane. A little on the older side, but a nice airplane.” The passenger said that he flew the airplane a “couple of times” while it was at his shop and that he “turned everything on” and all the systems and components worked as designed.
The passenger said that the pilot reported that he had not flown the airplane “for a long time” and asked if they could go for a flight and he agreed. The passenger said they went for a short flight, returned, serviced the airplane with 130 gallons of fuel, and then departed again. He was asked how the pilot performed on the preflight, engine start, taxi, takeoff, and the flight and he responded, “He seemed thorough… he was good.”
The passenger reported that he had no memory of the accident flight. He further stated that he typically conducted familiarization and test flights east of the La Belle Airport “over by Lake Okeechobee” where the terrain was mostly rural and sparsely populated.
The Government of Canada issued the pilot an airline transport pilot certificate for helicopters with multiple type ratings. He was issued a private pilot certificate for airplanes in April 2017, with ratings for single and multiengine airplanes. The pilot’s most recent medical examination was completed on April 4, 2019.
Examination of the airplane at the accident site revealed the wreckage path was oriented about 270° magnetic and about 230 ft long. The initial impact point was in a tree about 50 ft tall, and pieces of angularly cut wood were found beneath it.
The airplane came to rest upright, with both wings displaying significant impact damage. Each engine was secure in its nacelle and the flaps appeared to be set between 10° and 15°.
The left propeller blades were secure in the hub, and each displayed similar twisting, bending, and chordwise polishing. The blades of the right propeller were secure in the hub and were in the feathered position.
The tail section of the airplane was separated and rested upright adjacent to the fuselage. The windshield posts were cut by rescue personnel and the roof was folded back over the cabin area. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit area, through several breaks, to the flight control surfaces. The fractures at the breaks all displayed features consistent with overstress. The flap control handle was found in the “neutral” position, about midway between “up” and “down.”
The wing fuel tanks were void of fuel, and a slight odor of fuel was detected. An estimated 35 gallons of fuel was drained from the center fuselage tank, which remained intact.
The airplane was recovered from the accident site, and examination continued at the recovery facility. The airplane was powered using its own battery, and the fuel selectors were manipulated through each position, and the corresponding fuel valves energized, and their respective actuator arms moved as designed. Both fuel boost pumps worked when energized.
The left engine was rotated by hand at the propeller and continuity was established from the powertrain through the valvetrain to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method. Borescope examination of the cylinders revealed normal wear and deposits. Ignition timing was confirmed, and when the magnetos were removed and energized with a drill, they produced spark at all terminal leads. The engine-driven fuel pump was removed, actuated with a drill, and pumped fluid. Examination of fuel and old screens and filters revealed they were clean and absent of debris. The right engine was retained for further examination.