Mitsubishi MU-2B-36, West Memphis, Ark., Sept. 22, 2005 – The NTSB blamed the fatal accident on the pilot’s improper in-flight decision not to land at the departure runway or other available airports during the emergency descent, and his failure to maintain clearance from a vehicle and terrain. The MU-2 hit an earth-moving scraper and was destroyed. Contributing factors were a false engine fire warning light, inadequate maintenance by company personnel, a contaminated fire warning detection loop and night conditions.
After the initial departure, the pilot returned to West Memphis with a right engine fire warning light. Maintenance personnel found no problem with the airplane, which took off again. Twenty-three minutes later, the pilot reported that he needed to return to “have something checked out.” Passing four airports, he returned to West Memphis, overflying the airport and crashing into the scraper in a field 2.8 nm north of the departure end of Runway 35.
NTSB investigators found that the right engine was not operating at the time of impact, consistent with an engine shutdown and a feathered propeller. The landing gear handle was found to be in the gear up position, the flap selector in the retracted position. The right engine fire detection loop connector revealed damage from “previous overtorquing” and surface contamination, which “could have resulted in the control unit reporting a fire alarm to the crew,” according to the manufacturer.