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N6877M accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Watsonville, CA
36.910231°N, 121.756895°W

Tail number N6877M
Accident date 31 Aug 2001
Aircraft type Cessna T210M
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 31, 2001, at 2020 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna T210M, N6877M, impacted terrain and burned while on a 3-mile final approach to the Watsonville, California airport. The commercial certificated pilot, the sole occupant, was seriously injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The pilot subsequently died on September 24, 2001. The personal flight was operated by Kestrel LLC under 14 CFR Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and the flight was operating on an instrument flight plan. The flight departed from Salt Lake City, Utah. The time of departure is unknown.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Southwest Region Quality Assurance Office, the flight arrived in the Watsonville area in VFR-conditions-on-top and requested an instrument approach at Watsonville. The flight was cleared for the localizer approach to runway 2. There was no radio transmission from the airplane of an abnormal condition or emergency.

According to a narrative in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department report (case number 01-8044), the pilot told an early responder: "I was on approach to Watsonville and I lost my engine."

The minimum descent altitude for the localizer approach to runway 2 was 680 feet msl, (531 feet height above the runway touchdown zone elevation). At 2009, the automated weather observing system (AWOS-3) at Watsonville airport reported conditions as 200-foot overcast ceiling and visibility of 2 (statute) miles in mist. At 2028, the ceiling was 200-foot overcast and the visibility was 4 miles in mist.

The pilot's brother reported that his brother had flown to Salt Lake City the day prior to the accident. He attended a meeting on the day of the accident during which he told someone that he needed to leave early enough in the day to return home and cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains in daylight. His brother, also a pilot, doesn't think that his brother's day was so long that fatigue was a factor and, being that his brother was a doctor (dentist), he believes he was attuned to physiological issues. He said he has thought a lot about why his brother initiated the approach with the weather below minimums for the approach and can only conclude that it was because it is legal under 14 CFR Part 91 to do a "look-see" and that he knew that the weather was clear at San Jose and he could have gone there as an alternate.

Another pilot, who sublet a hangar at Watsonville airport to the accident pilot, said he was at the airport on the evening of the accident for the purpose of meeting him. They were to meet to transfer possession of the hangar back to the second pilot who was going to put his own airplane back in the hangar. About 1830, the fog rolled in and the second pilot thought there would be no more flight operations that night and left the airport. The second pilot said that he spoke with the accident pilot the night before he left for Salt Lake City and he seemed to have some reservations about making the trip. The pilot was moving his residence and he was leaving his wife alone to accomplish the move and implied his wife was displeased. The second pilot thought he could have felt pressure to land at Watsonville in order to get home and help his wife, or because he knew (thought) the second pilot was waiting to meet him there.

According to servicing records obtained from Million Air Aviation in Salt Lake City, the airplane was fueled with 58 gallons of 100-octane fuel on August 31.


The pilot's logbook was not located after the accident and the hours shown in the pilot flight time matrix are from an insurance application form provided by the pilot's wife. She reported the hours were correct as of January, 2001. The pilot completed a Cessna 210 refresher training course at Flight Safety International on April 21, 2001.


The airplane's recording tachometer was damaged by fire and was unreadable. According to the airplane logbooks, the engine was overhauled and reinstalled in the airplane on April 3, 2001, at airframe total time of 3,381 hours. On June 28, 2001, maintenance was performed on the airframe and, on that date, the recorded total airframe time was 3,417 hours. There were no later entries in the logbooks.


An inspector from the FAA's San Jose Flight Standards District Office responded to the scene and reported that the majority of the aircraft wreckage came to rest on railroad tracks that cross the extended centerline of the approach to Watsonville about 2 miles south-southwest of the airport. The site was at latitude 36 degrees 54.371 minutes north and longitude 121 degrees 48.643 minutes west. There was a postcrash fire at the site. The railroad tracks extended in a northwest-southeast direction. On the southwest side of the railroad tracks was a bluff rising about 30 feet above the tracks at a 45-degree slope. At the top of the bluff, to the southwest of the wreckage, and down the face of the slope to the wreckage, was an area of fire-damaged vegetation. From the top of the slope, further to the southwest about 75 feet was a fire-involved area of damaged eucalyptus trees extending from about 75 feet above ground level to the surface. The sheriff's report noted that the pilot was found near the railroad tracks and was still wearing a noise-attenuating headset.

The airplane was examined by a Safety Board investigator at the facilities of Plain Parts, Pleasant Grove, California, on September 14, 2001. The cockpit, passenger cabin, and wings (except the right wing tip) were consumed by fire. The left wing was separated from the fuselage about 1 foot outboard of the wing root, and there was a deep indentation in the outer wing leading edge that the Cessna party representative said appeared to have been caused by impact with a tree of 2- to 3-inch diameter. The outer right wing was broken into two pieces, the inner portion of which was damaged by fire. The outer portion of the right wing was not fire damaged. A burned wing skin section from near the right-wing fuel tank exhibited hydraulic deformation. The empennage was damaged by impact with little or no fire damage.

The wing fuel tanks, lines, and vent system were destroyed by fire, as was the fuel line from the fuel tank selector to the engine. The fuel tank selector was in the "right tank" position based upon the position of the "flat" on the handle shaft. When the ports were blown through, both the left and right tank supply ports of the fire damaged valve were open to the engine port. The engine throttle and mixture controls were attached to their respective engine linkages and were continuous between the engine and the cockpit. The controls were in the mid-range position. The wing flap actuator was found in a position corresponding to the flaps "up" position and the elevator trim tab actuator was in the 13-degree tab-up position.

The engine and propeller were not involved in the fire. The propeller hub, with two blades of the 3-blade propeller, remained attached to the engine propeller flange. The one blade broken from the hub was found with the wreckage. The blade tips exhibited torsional twisting and the blade which was broken out of the hub exhibited slight "s-bending" on the outboard 60 percent of the trailing edge. Externally, the engine exhibited little or no impact damage. There was no evidence of a preimpact oil leak, and obvious damage to the engine was limited to the number 6 cylinder rocker box cover and some sections of the induction system at the rear of the engine. The upper spark plugs exhibited a gray appearance and appeared to be serviceable. The air filter element was secure in its normal position.

The engine was further examined on January 14 and 15, 2002, at the facilities of Teledyne Continental Motors, Mobile, Alabama.

The engine exhibited impact damage to the number 4 and 6 rocker box covers and the cooling baffling on the right and left side. In the rear of the engine, there was damage to the right and left induction elbows and the bracket supporting the vertical induction tube. The exhaust manifolds were damaged on the left and right sides. The engine sump was dented but not punctured.

There was a blue color stain on the left-hand side of the engine crankcase that extended from the area beneath the flow divider assembly, over a 6-inch-wide area over the upper left crankcase, around the number 4 cylinder base, and down to the sump. The safety wire was severed on the cover of the flow divider; however, the FAA FSDO inspector who responded to the accident site reported that he cut the wire and opened the divider on-scene to check for evidence of fuel in the engine. The same inspector reported that the blue fuel stain mentioned above was present on the engine at the scene and that the engine was lying right-side low so that the stained portion of the engine was above the flow divider, opposite the direction fuel would have flowed (due to gravity) from a leaking divider. Subsequently, according to the inspector, a conversation with the primary maintainer of the aircraft, 2 Genes Aviation at Watsonville, on January 16, 2002, revealed that the fuel stain on the engine was found 2 or 3 weeks before the accident by an avionics shop at Reid Hillview Airport, San Jose, and was repaired by a local mechanic there.

There was also sooting damage in the accessory section of the engine. A "B-nut" was found looser than finger tight at the outlet from the engine driven fuel pump in the heat-involved area.

The turbocharger turned freely when rotated by finger. The wastegate assembly and turbo-supercharger controller were visibly undamaged.

The engine was made ready for a test cell run by removing the cooling baffling, alternator, propeller governor and exhaust system and turbo machinery. The starter motor was replaced due to a broken electrical terminal. The left and right induction (rear) elbows were substituted. A fractured fitting was replaced at the inlet to the engine driven fuel pump. Two broken engine mounts were replaced on the left-hand side of the engine.

The engine was installed and operated in test cell 3 using a test cell turbo supercharger. The engine started promptly and operated smoothly and evenly. The engine was operated for about 15 minutes, including more than 4 minutes at maximum (takeoff) power. The test cell parameter sheet is attached.


The pilot died on September 24, 2001.


A fuel-consumed calculation prepared by the Cessna Aircraft Company party representative (attached) showed that the airplane should have had about 40 gallons of fuel aboard at the time of the accident, assuming that the 58 gallons added in Salt Lake City on the day of the accident fueled the airplane to maximum capacity (90 gallons). According to radio communications transcripts, the pilot contacted Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center while in level flight at flight level 220 (approximately 22,000 feet msl), and that altitude was used for the en route fuel consumption calculation. The Cessna representative said that a review of the 500-millibar atmospheric chart showed that an area of high pressure was present over the flight route and the wind aloft was minimal with a headwind at the start of the trip and a tailwind at the end. The calculation is based upon a zero net wind.


The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Kenneth Steiner, adjuster for USAIG, on May 20, 2002.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.