Bad cylinder brings down airplane

Aircraft: Cirrus SR20. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: New Orleans. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Shortly after takeoff in IFR conditions over water, the pilot noted a rapid increase in the temperature of the No. 2 cylinder head, followed by a drop in oil pressure.

He declared an emergency and attempted to return to the airport. The engine failed and the propeller seized.

The airplane came down in the water. The pilot was rescued by a local fisherman.

Examination of the engine revealed the No. 2 fuel injector nozzle was clogged, resulting in detonation of the No. 2 cylinder.

A review of maintenance records revealed that each of the fuel injector nozzles was removed and cleaned five days before the accident. The pilot said he had the nozzles cleaned because he noticed a high CHT on the No. 2 cylinder during a cross-country flight.

After the nozzles were cleaned, they were placed back on the engine and two separate engine runs were conducted. No anomalies were noted.

The pilot then flew a 2.5 hour cross-country flight without incident. However, on the pilot’s next flight, which was the accident flight, the engine failed due to detonation.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to detonation of the No.2 cylinder from a clogged fuel injector nozzle.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA076


This November 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Jeff says

    I don’t think so. A clogged fuel injector equals a dead cylinder, no fuel, no burn, no heat. Detonation from something else maybe. Loss of power yes. Seized engine, I don’t think so.
    Unanswered is what caused the clogged injector. Was the timing checked? Engine temperature checked?

    • Colin says

      Clogged injector – if not fully clogged equals partially restricted fuel flow, higher EGT/CHT leading to detonation and eventual destruction.


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