It has been a tough year for crashes in “congested” areas as the FAA likes to refer to cities. The latest involved a 1974 Cessna 421B that went down while attempting a return to Ft. Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) airport.
The 80 year old pilot, according to news reports, advised the tower that he was having difficulty. In some respect this accident is quite similar to the Navajo crash that happened in North Las Vegas last summer. Both involved multiengine aircraft that only had one person aboard that suffered an apparent engine failure shortly after takeoff. In both cases the aircraft crashed short of the runway with no ground injuries but a building, aircraft and pilot destroyed.
My usual caveat applies, since we know few details about the accident so anything here is speculative. The local newspaper made much of the fact that the aircraft had two engines and thus should have been able to continue flight. Generally, most twins will remain airborne if the pilot does everything correctly, they aren’t too heavily loaded and the density altitude is such that continued flight is an option.
In this case, the Cessna was light and at sea level but if the pilot did not identify, verify and feather in the proper sequence and promptly, the outcome will be disappointing. I once ran a little experiment in the back of Flight Safety’s C421 simulator. We found that it took the average pilot, without the benefit of recurrent training, about 5 to 7 seconds to start corrective action in an engine-out emergency. After training that time was cut to about 3 seconds.
Twin or single, they have to be flown right. Some say the second engine just takes you to the crash site and that twins have two engines because they need both to stay airborne. You can engage in that debate without my help.
Of interest, is the pilot’s age and the fact that ASF is working with the University of North Dakota to measure how aging affects pilot performance. If you’re interested in volunteering let us know. Now that I’ve kicked over the hornet’s nest on twins and “mature” pilots, understand that good maintenance and genetics play a critical part on how old either pilot or aircraft really are.