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After fueling, he helped the pilot load four or five large metal trunks labeled photo gear into the aircraft. The attendant asked the pilot where the tie downs or straps were and the pilots stated he would secure the cargo later. Multiple witnesses stated they saw the plane make contact with the tower or saw it smoking before the crash. A geologist stated he saw “lots of yellow sparks or flames coming from the right engine, then the plane disappeared into the mist”. A retired LAPD police helicopter pilot saw smoke coming off the right engine and “knew” it had flames coming from it.An Embry-Riddle professor noticed a smoking right engine. Finally, a forest ranger saw the plane come of out the mist and contact the tip of the communication tower and crash.1.9Final AnalysisThe mishap aircraft suffered a fire on the right-wing engine after takeoff, based on eyewitness testimony and fire investigation. The mishap pilot reported a possible loss of power and fuel droplets on that same engine 10 days prior. Ground personnel and the owner brushed it off as minor because of “this aircraft”. Zonk Air Charters had already been cited by the FAA in regards to record keeping and the investigation found all facets of the operation to be severely lacking in record keeping. The company seemingly was in financial trouble as they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, were late on paying for fuel and maintenance, and the owner
ZONK AIR ACCIDENT REPORT PROJECT 10pushed the pilot to perform the flight even though he was two days overdue for his Part 135 check ride because it was a “good money-making opportunity”. The mishap pilot failed to recognize the severity of the weather and tried to fly using VFR instead of accepting the IFR from the controller. He also did not file a flight plan as he was fatigued, inexperienced, and was rushing to get the flight done with. 2.0ConclusionThe probable cause of the accident was failure of the right engine due to propagation cracking on the fuel line support brackets. The left engine showed the same evidence, although the fuel lines themselves were not damaged. From witness statements and the fire investigation, it is likely a fire started on the right engine shortly after takeoff and while performing emergency actions, combined with the deteriorating weather condition, the pilot came out of the clouds and clipped the top of a 100-foot communications tower. That impact caused the aircraft to twist and at a 14.04° angle, impact the ground. 2.1RecommendationsRequire all operators of PA-31 aircraft to immediately perform the AD for the fuel line support brackets. Recommend all Part 135 and Part 91 operations be documented correctly, fully, and on time. Recommend Zonk Air receive training and future inspections to ensure they are in compliance of all FAA regulations. The FAA should inspect, retrain, and re-certify the owner of Zonk Air as a Part 135 checkairman.
ZONK AIR ACCIDENT REPORT PROJECT 11ReferencesAirNav: KTVL - Lake Tahoe Airport. (2017). Airnav.com. Retrieved 16 July 2017, from