Failure to land at the closest airport proves fatal

General Aviation News will often reprint accident reports from the US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), including one dated January 2010 about an accident involving a Beech B60 in Madison (Alabama) that caused two fatalities.

Apparently, 15 minutes after take-off at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the Beech B60’s right engine experienced a catastrophic engine failure with the nearest airport suitable for landing being about 10 miles away. Instead of flying to this nearby airport, the pilot instead decided to return to the departure airport which happened to be 30 miles away.

He did not make it. The aircraft crashed and burned three miles from the intended airport for the emergency landing.

An accident investigation uncovered a 5 1/2- by 6-inch hole in the top right portion of the crankcase and that the No. 2 cylinder of the right engine had separated from the crankcase during the flight. In addition, two No. 2 cylinder studs were found to have fatigue fractures along with a portion of the right side of the crankcase plus some of the cylinder hold-down studs exceeded the manufacturer’s specified length.

It had also been 50 hours and 8 months since the aircraft had its most recent annual inspection plus the right engine had not been overhauled for about 1,425 hours and it was 455 hours since the No. 2 cylinder was removed for the replacement of the six cylinder studs.

Nevertheless, the probable cause of the accident was ruled the pilot’s failure to return to the closest airport after a catastrophic engine failure due to fatigue cracks and separation. 

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