Preliminary Report: Cessna ditches on return flight from recurrency training

 - July 30, 2008, 11:38 AM

Cessna 414, Port Jefferson, N.Y., May 26, 2003–At 2:28 p.m. EDT Cessna 414 N1234 was substantially damaged during a forced landing into Long Island Sound approximately six miles north of Port Jefferson, N.Y. The commercial pilot/ owner was not injured. N1234 was on an IFR flight plan and was flying in IMC. The flight originated at Orlando International Airport, Fla., earlier that morning and was destined for Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y. The pilot told investigators that he had been in Orlando to attend a three-day Cessna 414 recurrent flight-training course.

Before departure the pilot purchased 100 gallons of avgas, filling all five fuel tanks for a total of 183 gallons, yielding an estimated endurance of 5.5 hours. During his preflight inspection the pilot said he visually examined each fuel tank and sampled the fuel confirming each fuel tank was completely full and that all samples were debris and water free.

According to the pilot, the flight was uneventful through the arrival into the New York area. Fuel remaining was determined by comparing the fuel gauges to an after-market electronic fuel computer, along with noting the time each fuel tank was selected.

As he approached New York, about four hours after departing Orlando, the pilot was instructed by ATC to fly the Bono Three arrival and maintain 16,000-feet. The pilot requested a lower altitude, but due to poor weather conditions and air traffic congestion the controller told him that “it would be a while” before he’d be able to give him a lower altitude. The pilot became increasingly concerned about ATC delays, and informed the controller that he had “minimal fuel,” about 20 gallons per side, though he did not declare an emergency.

The controller then instructed the pilot to descend to 4,000 feet and provided radar vectors. The pilot stated he reduced both throttles to idle and while the airplane was descending he noticed that the fuel gauges indicated a rapid decline in available fuel, which was “not normal.” As the airplane approached its newly assigned altitude the pilot increased the power setting on both throttles and the right engine stopped producing power. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude and informed the controller that he had “lost an engine and needed vectors to the nearest runway.” The controller provided radar vectors to Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Conn.

About 1.5 minutes after the right engine failed, the left engine stopped producing power. After realizing how far offshore he was, the pilot told the controller that he was going to ditch the airplane in the water.

According to the pilot, he maintained a “safe airspeed,” turned the airplane into the wind and raised the landing gear. He broke out of the cloud layer 280 feet above the water, noted the direction of the six-foot waves and made a “soft” water landing.

After touchdown, the airplane began filling with water. According to the pilot,
he donned a personal flotation device, grabbed a flare gun, ate a nutrition bar and dialed 911 on his cellphone. The 911 dispatcher connected him to the Coast Guard for further rescue assistance, and afterward the pilot exited the airplane. The airplane came to rest in 80 to 90 feet of salt water.

The pilot also noted that he had not experienced any mechanical problems with the airplane before the flight. The airplane was recently painted, during which time he had the tip tanks resealed.

The pilot reported approximately 1,000 flight hours TT, of which 70 were in make and model. He also stated that he was very conservative and kept a flight log in the airplane that detailed his fuel-management calculations for the flight. However, the log sank with the airplane.

Weather at Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport, about nine miles north of the accident site, at 1439 was wind from 020 degrees at eight knots, visibility one statute mile, heavy rain, mist, scattered clouds at 1,500 feet, overcast clouds at 3,500 feet, dew point and temperature 52 degrees F, and pressure 29.96 inches Hg.