On September 20, 2019, about 1230 central daylight time, a Cessna 208B, N895SF, was substantially damaged during a hard landing at Pepperell Airport (26MA), Pepperell, Massachusetts. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the skydiving flight that departed at 1215. The airplane was privately owned and operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
On June 29, 2019, about 0910 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 208B, N80JF, was substantially damaged while landing at Blackwater Creek Ultralight Flightpark (9FD2), Plant City, Florida. The commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to ISR Aviation LLC and operated as Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 skydiving flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the flight. The local flight originated about 0900.
The pilot was conducting parachute jump operations near the airport. After climbing to altitude, he
released his jumpers and returned to land. The pilot reported that, during the landing flare, the airplane
struck the runway nosewheel first. He added that the airplane bounced, floated down the runway, and
then settled to the right of the runway.
The airplane was at 1,250 ft above ground level carrying a load of skydivers. According to a
skydiving instructor onboard the airplane, the jumpmaster leaned forward to assist a skydiver
in exiting the airplane when the jumpmaster’s reserve parachute inadvertently deployed and
entered the airplane’s slipstream. The jumpmaster attempted to pull the parachute back into
the airplane but was pulled into the door frame and dragged out of the airplane. The
jumpmaster, who appeared to be unconscious, descended to the ground beneath his streaming
(unopened) reserve parachute without deploying his main parachute. The pilot maintained
control of the airplane and landed safely. Examination of the jumpmaster’s reserve parachute
revealed that it was damaged by impact with the door frame, thus it did not deploy properly. It
is likely that the jumpmaster failed to guard his reserve parachute ripcord, which was exposed
on the front of his parachute, and the ripcord snagged on something as he attempted to assist
the exiting skydiver, which caused the reserve parachute to deploy prematurely.
Before the accident flight, the commercial pilot had conducted three flights, during which parachutists
were successfully dropped. After each flight, he returned the empty airplane to a dry grass airstrip (1,950
ft long) and conducted full-stop landings. Because the temperature was over 90° with high humidity, the
pilot requested that his manifests allow only up to 14 parachutists and a longer time between shutdowns
to ensure sufficient time for adequate engine cooling before the next flight. The pilot reported that popup
rain showers had been passing north and south of his base airport throughout the morning but that
they never came closer than 10 to 15 miles.
The commercial pilot reported that, after takeoff on the local skydiving flight, the engine experienced a
total loss of power. He initiated a turn toward the airport, but realized the airplane would not reach the
runway and chose to perform a forced landing to an open field. During the landing roll, the airplane
exited the field, crossed a road, impacted a truck, and continued into a vineyard, where it nosed over.
The pilot reported that, during the postmaintenance test flight, the turboprop engine lost power. The
airplane was unable to maintain altitude, and the pilot conducted a forced landing, during which the
airplane was substantially damaged.
The engine had about 9 total flight hours at the time of the accident. A teardown of the fuel pump
revealed that the high-pressure drive gear teeth exhibited wear and that material was missing from them,
whereas the driven gear exhibited little to no visible wear. A metallurgical examination of the gears
revealed that the damaged drive gear was made of a material similar to 300-series stainless steel instead
of the harder specified M50 steel, whereas the driven gear was made of a material similar to the
specified M50 steel. Subsequent to these findings, the airplane manufacturer determined that the gear
manufacturer allowed three set-up gears made from 300-series stainless steel to become part of the
production inventory during the manufacturing process. One of those gears was installed in the fuel
pump on the accident airplane, and the location of the two other gears could not be determined. Based
on the evidence, it is likely that the nonconforming gear installed in the fuel pump failed because it was
manufactured from a softer material than specified, which resulted in a loss of fuel flow to the engine
and the subsequent loss of engine power.
According to the pilot, during the landing on a grassy area that was parallel to the paved
runway, the airplane touched down and impacted a ditch near an intersecting taxiway. The
airplane became airborne, touched down on the other side of the intersecting taxiway, bounced
again, and then landed hard on the nose gear, which resulted in substantial damage to the
fuselage and subsequent collapse of the nose landing gear. In a telephone interview, the pilot
stated that the ditch was about 200 feet from his initial touchdown point and that he regularly
lands on the grass, in the opposite direction, in order to minimize the wear on the main landing
gear tires. No preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures were noted with the airplane
that would have precluded normal operation.
The pilot said that, while on short final, the airplane experienced a sudden sink rate when the
wind changed from a head wind to calm conditions. He was unable to arrest the sink rate even
after power was applied because of the lag time for the airplane’s turbine engine to spool up.
The airplane landed hard short of the runway. Postaccident examination of the airplane
revealed that the left side of the fuselage was dented and wrinkled, and the left main landing
gear was bent inboard of the axle and was missing its brake assembly.
Prior to the flight, the pilot fueled the airplane with 16 gallons of jet fuel. He planned to make two local flights carrying skydivers aloft. During the second skydiving flight, he delayed releasing the skydivers due to traffic in the area. As he turned the airplane back toward the drop zone, the airplane’s engine experienced a total loss of power.
The flight was at 13,500 feet overhead the airport, preparing for the skydivers to jump. The pilot turned on the green light to initiate the jump. He then felt the aircraft shudder, but did not lose control of the airplane. After most of the jumpers had left the airplane, one of the skydivers came forward and notified the pilot of damage to the tail.
The pilot reported that the airplane, which was used for sky diving operations, was climbing through 7,000 feet mean sea level (msl) when he heard an explosion followed by a metal grinding noise coming from the engine section of the airplane. He felt the airplane vibrate, and smoke began to fill the cabin. He reported that the engine was not producing any power so he shut the fuel off and performed procedures to rid the cabin of smoke.
The pilot was returning a group of skydivers to their home base after a weekend of skydiving. He flew several jump flights, and then stopped early in the afternoon to prepare the airplane for the flight home. The flight was planned into an area of clouds, turbulence, and icing, which the pilot had researched. He delayed the departure until he decided that he could complete the planned flight under visual flight rules (VFR).
The pilot reported that prior to takeoff he drained the main lower sump, but not the wing sumps, as was company policy. The pilot stated that he was told by the mechanic that “constant use of the wing sumps causes them to leak, and also causes damage to the fuel cells that is hard to repair.” The pilot also reported that the airplane had been fueled a few days prior to the flight from a 55 gallon barrel by an electric pump at the company’s fueling facility.
After a parachute drop flight, the airplane taxied back to the ramp area. The airplane was parked on the ramp, with the engine running, while the next group of parachutists were boarding the airplane. During that time, a parachutist who had just landed, contacted the propeller and sustained a serious injury.
During sport parachute operations the aircraft inadvertently stalled when too many jumpers attached themselves on the outside of the aircraft. The jumpers had been briefed on limiting the number to exit at one time to six; however, they ignored these instructions. As they departed the aircraft the pilot regained control and landed without further incident.
As the plt & 16 jumpers deptd on a skydiving flt, the eng lost pwr at aprx 300′ agl. The acft then banked steeply left, spiraled in a steep nose dwn attitude & crashed. An exam revealed fuel in the tanks was contaminated with wtr & foreign material with the appearance of brown algae. Milky fluid (aprx 65% jet fuel & 34% wtr) was fnd in the eng fuel control, as well as iron contaminants. Dark stringy material was fnd in the fuel filters. The acft had been refueled fm 55 gal drums which contained contaminated fuel. The drums were stored upright & rain water could leak thru the filler caps. N551cc had a history of fuel contamination which on occasions caused the fuel bypass indicator to display. Rprtdly, the stall warning circuit brkr had been disengaged on other occasions, so as not to startle the jumpers; however, due to dmg, its preimpact psn could not be verified. Acft was estd to be 370 lbs ovr its max wt lmt & 1′ fwd of the cg lmt. The9 pax seats had been rmvd to haul up to 18 jumpers. Pax seat belts were not used. Lack of faa surveillance was noted.