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N3896P accident description

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Crash location 42.407222°N, 83.025000°W
Nearest city Detroit, MI
42.331427°N, 83.045754°W
5.3 miles away
Tail number N3896P
Accident date 24 Jun 2018
Aircraft type Cessna P210N
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On June 24, 2018, about 1957 eastern daylight time (all times referenced as eastern daylight time), a Cessna P210N single-engine airplane, N3896P, impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing in Detroit, Michigan. The pilot and front-seat passenger were fatally injured, and the rear-seat passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged during the forced landing and postimpact fire. The airplane was registered to and operated by the private pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that departed West Memphis Municipal Airport (AWM), West Memphis, Arkansas, about 1642 with the intended destination of Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport (DET), Detroit, Michigan.

The cross-country flight originally departed from Baytown Airport (HPY), Baytown, Texas, and the pilot made a planned fuel stop at AWM before continuing toward DET. According to the fixed-base operator (FBO) employee who fueled the airplane at AWM, the pilot requested 30 gallons of 100 low-lead aviation fuel to be added each wing tank (60 gallons total). The FBO employee stated that after he had refueled the airplane to the pilot's specifications the fuel level was about 1/4 inch from the top of the left tank and 1-2 inches from the top of the right tank.

According to air traffic control (ATC) data, the airplane appeared on radar at 1642:26 shortly after departing runway 17 at AWM. The airplane proceeded to climb to an initial cruise altitude of 12,000 ft mean sea level (msl) while on a direct course toward DET. Between 1745:26 and 1755:56, the airplane briefly climbed to 14,000 ft msl before descending to a final cruise altitude of 10,000 ft msl while on a direct course toward DET. At 1912:46, the airplane entered a descent to 3,500 ft msl. At 1928:56, the airplane entered a descent to 2,000 ft msl.

According to recorded ATC communications, at 1948:26, the pilot established radio contact with the tower controller at DET. At 1948:34, the tower controller cleared the pilot to land on runway 33 at DET. At 1948:52, the airplane made a slight right turn to enter a left base for runway 33. At 1949:50, the pilot transmitted, "… we don't have a green light on our gear down here, we might have to circle if ya don't mind." The tower controller offered to observe the landing gear position if the pilot made a low-altitude flyby over runway 33. At 1950:05, the pilot transmitted, "all right, looks like we're partial down, I just don't think we're all the way down, I'll try to cycle it again, we're coming over." At 1951:24, the pilot transmitted, "... we got a partial down tower, but it's not all the way down, we don't have a green light." At that time, the airplane was on a 1 mile final approach for runway 33.

The airplane continued to descend toward runway 33, and at 1951:47, descended below available radar coverage about 0.32 miles from the approach end of runway 33 at 900 ft msl. At 1952:09, as the airplane overflew runway 33, the tower controller told the pilot, "yeah, your right main appears, uh, like it's still up." The pilot replied, "... let's try and cycle it up one more time and then cycle it down." At 1952:34, the airplane reappeared on radar over the departure end of runway 33 at 800 ft msl. At 1952:40, the tower controller asked the pilot if he was going to make left traffic for runway 33. The pilot replied that he was making a left turn to remain in the traffic pattern.

The airplane continued in a climbing left turn to a downwind leg for runway 33. At 1954:45, the pilot asked the tower controller, "... should we just keep circling here as we work on this gear?" The tower controller replied, "... you can just keep circling and low approaches over [runway] three [three] as you work on the gear, and then just stay in left traffic." At 1954:59, the pilot transmitted, "doesn't appear we're making any progress with the gear whatsoever." At that point the airplane had climbed to 2,000 ft msl and begun a left turn from downwind leg to base leg for runway 33. At 1955:03, the controller asked what the pilot's intentions were. The pilot replied, "well, if we can't make anything happen, I guess we can land in the grass just, uh, on the infield there, just parallel with [runway] three three huh?" At 1955:16, the controller replied that he did not prefer a landing on the grass infield and suggested that the pilot land on runway 7/25 instead. At 1955:52, the pilot asked the controller, "so, the west side of [runway] one five is not good in the grass?" The controller replied, "I can't clear you for a landing there, but you, if that's where you have to put it down, that would be, uh, ya think it would be better to land in the grass than on the runway." At that point the airplane had climbed to 2,500 ft msl and was flying northbound, parallel to runway 33, about 0.72 miles east of the runway centerline.

At 1956:23, the pilot asked the tower controller, "ya want me on [runway] seven?" The tower controller replied, "yeah, um, continue to, uh, enter a downwind for runway seven and, uh, cleared to land on runway seven, I'll see if I can get, uh, some equipment out here if you wanna just keep circling until I can get some equipment out." At 1956:38, the pilot transmitted, "Well, I just burnt outta fuel, we're totally out bud." At 1956:42, the tower controller replied, "okay, well, I don't want to keep you circling either so, uh, runway 7 cleared to land." At that point the airplane had descended to 1,800 ft msl and was about 0.84 miles north-northeast of the runway 15 displaced threshold and 1.75 miles north of the runway 7 displaced threshold. There were no additional communications received from the pilot.

According to radar track data, the airplane continued to descend in a left turn to join the left base leg for runway 7. At 1957:52, the final radar return was recorded at 800 ft msl (180 ft above ground level) about 0.92 miles northwest of the runway 7 displaced threshold. The final radar return was about 0.3 miles northwest of the accident site.

The main wreckage was in a vacant residential lot along Milton Avenue. An onsite survey revealed a 240 ft long debris path that was oriented on a 137° magnetic heading. There were multiple broken tree branches and a severed electrical service line found along the debris path. The propeller separated from the engine and was found at the base of a tree about 75 ft from the main wreckage. An area of burnt ground surrounded the main wreckage, which consisted of the fuselage, empennage, both wings, and the engine. The main wreckage was found inverted and facing northwest. A majority of the forward fuselage, including the cockpit and instrument panel, had been consumed during the postaccident fire. Flight control cable continuity was established from each flight control surface to its respective cockpit control. The wing flap actuator measured 2.6 inches, which was consistent with a 10° flap extension. The fuel filter was not located in the wreckage and was likely consumed during the postaccident fire. The fuel selector valve was positioned to draw fuel from the right fuel tank. A functional test of the fuel selector valve did not reveal any anomalies. The nose and right main landing gear were fully extended and secured by their respective downlocks. The left main landing gear was found fully retracted in the wheel well and secured by its respective uplock. There were small tree branches and leaves observed in the wheel well between the left landing gear leg and the fuselage. Both main landing gear were manually moved between the retracted and extended positions without any anomalies, and their respective up and down lock assemblies secured both landing gear as designed. The landing gear selector handle and emergency extension handle were not located in the wreckage and likely were consumed during the postaccident fire. The landing gear motor/pump assembly was damaged during the postaccident fire and its attached hydraulic fluid reservoir was breached. The hydraulic fluid lines for the landing gear extension/retraction system were significantly damaged during impact and the postaccident fire. There was no evidence of an internal hydraulic fluid leak or any mechanical damage to either main landing gear actuator. The nose landing gear actuator exhibited thermal damage from the postaccident fire. The left main landing gear downlock switch plunger appeared bent and jammed in the closed position, and the plunger did not contact the left gear leg when the gear was fully extended. A continuity check with a multimeter confirmed that the left downlock switch was stuck in the closed position. The right downlock position switch functioned normally when tested with a multimeter. The left main landing gear uplock switch plunger did not contact the left gear leg when the gear was fully retracted. There were no electrical anomalies noted with either main landing gear uplock switch when tested with a multimeter.

The engine remained attached to the firewall. The propeller remained attached to the propeller flange; however, the flange had separated from the remainder of the engine crankshaft. All three propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub and exhibited minor spanwise S-shape bending and chordwise scratching. Internal engine and valve train continuity were confirmed as the engine crankshaft was rotated through a rear accessory gear. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The left magneto remained partially attached to its installation point and provided spark on all posts while the crankshaft was rotated. The right magneto had separated from the engine; however, it provided a spark on all posts when rotated by hand. The upper spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. A borescope inspection of each cylinder did not reveal any anomalies with the cylinders, pistons, valves, valve seats, or lower spark plugs. The mechanical fuel pump remained attached to the engine and the fuel pump drive coupling was intact; however, the pump exhibited thermal damage and there was significant resistance when the pump was rotated by hand. The fuel pump was partially disassembled, and the internal components exhibited thermal damage. The fuel metering unit remained partially attached to the engine through fuel lines and control cables. The fuel manifold valve remained attached to the engine and exhibited impact-related damage. None of the fuel lines contained residual fuel. The propeller governor remained attached to the engine and exhibited impact-related damage. The turbocharger remained attached to the engine, and the compressor was capable of normal rotation and exhibited normal operation signatures. There were no anomalies noted with the turbocharger wastegate, controller, or overboost valve. The oil pump remained attached to the engine and exhibited thermal damage from the postaccident fire. The oil sump was dented and crushed during impact. The oil sump was removed, and no metallic material was observed within the sump. The oil pick-up tube and screen were clear of any contaminates. The oil filter remained attached to the remote filter adapter. The oil filter housing was cut open and no metallic material was observed on the filter pleats. The oil dipstick and cap remained attached to the engine; however, when removed from the engine, the lower portion of the oil gauge was missing. The missing portion of the oil gauge was not found in the engine when the oil sump was removed. The postaccident examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal engine operation during the flight.

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