The private pilot was conducting a cross-country flight at a cruise altitude of 5,000′ mean sea level (msl) in day visual meteorological conditions when the Beech A36 experienced a total loss of engine power.
Over the next minute, the plane continued a northerly track before it began a turn to the west as the controller identified the closest public airport, private strip, state highway, and open areas for potential forced landing sites, which the pilot acknowledged.
About three minutes later, the plane hit trees and terrain near Dadeville, Alabama, and was consumed by post-crash fire, killing both people on board.
All engine accessories were destroyed by fire and could not be examined except for the engine-driven fuel pump, which revealed no anomalies.
The engine displayed internal and external thermal damage, but internally displayed signatures consistent with normal wear and lubrication. Tree damage at the site was consistent with a rotating propeller at the time of tree contact.
An NTSB performance specialist plotted potential glide ranges and trajectories for the airplane from the assumed point of engine power loss. About the time of the loss of engine power, the airplane was about one mile abeam an abandoned airport. This airport was not plotted on the visual flight rules sectional chart nor was it visible to the controller, and it may not have been readily visible to the pilot due to its location on the right side of the airplane.
However, the airplane’s projected glide distance and trajectories indicated that the airplane was within gliding distance of numerous open fields, as well as a four-lane divided highway with a large grass median. It could not be determined why the pilot chose to forgo any of the potential suitable forced landing sites.
Probable cause: A loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined due to postcrash thermal damage to the engine accessories and the airframe. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to navigate to any of the available forced landing sites within gliding distance of the airplane following the loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: ERA17FA140
This March 2017 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.