Post-Inspection Cessna 421 Ends Delivery Flight in Corn Field

The NTSB has published a preliminary report about an unfortunate flight involving a post-sale flight of a Cessna 421C, describing a failing right engine and a gear-up landing in a cornfield near McGregor, Texas.

Location: McGregor, TX
Date & Time: December 8, 2023, 12:32
Local Registration: N146TJ
Aircraft: Cessna 421C
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Positioning

“On December 8, 2023, about 1232 central standard time, a Cessna 421C airplane, N146TJ, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near McGregor, Texas. The pilot was not injured. The flight was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations part 91 positioning flight. The purpose of the flight was to reposition the airplane from Waco, Texas (ACT), to Boerne, Texas (5C1). The airplane had just undergone an inspection, and the new owners were taking possession of the airplane. The pilot reviewed the logbooks and conducted a pre-flight inspection, and then filed an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan to 5C1.”

“The pilot reported that the takeoff and initial climb was normal. Passing through about 11,500 ft, the right engine rpms increased immediately to about 4,500 RPMs. The pilot reported that he thought that the right propeller governor had failed. He heard the right engine “screaming.,” due to the excessive RPMs. The pilot then pulled back the right propeller condition lever with no change, so he pulled the mixture back to near cutoff which reduced the RPMs to about 2,000 RPMs. The right engine continued to run, and the pilot turned back toward ACT, with the thought that the airplane could hold altitude or climb about 200-300 feet-per-minute.”

“The airspeed started to decay, and the airplane descended about 1,000 – 2,000 FPM just to hold sufficient airspeed. The pilot pushed the left engine controls to full throttle, full propeller, and full mixture while he tried to “milk” the right engine to produce at least neutral thrust vice negative thrust. The pilot declared an emergency with Air Traffic Control when the airplane was about 25 miles from ACT. The McGregor Executive Airport (PWG) airport was about 20 miles away, so the pilot changed his emergency landing location to PWG.”

“The right engine continued to run but did not produce any power. The pilot tried various propeller, mixture, and throttle settings, but the engine would have “massive” vibrations. When the airplane was about 1,500 ft, and about 4 miles from PWG, the pilot thought that he was not going to make the airport and elected to make a forced landing into a flat, harvested corn field. Upon making a gear-up landing in the field, the airplane traveled about 100 ft, and came to rest upright. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the underside of the fuselage. The pilot exited the airplane uninjured, and the airplane was recovered to a secure facility in Lancaster, Texas, for further examination.”

The incident is a good reminder for those flying older piston twins – engine out procedures are often the deciding factor between making it back to the strip in one piece, and walking home.