National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Preliminary Report
Fort Apache, AZ
Date & Time:
05/06/2018, 1338 MST
Flight Conducted Under:
Part 91: General Aviation - Personal
On May 6, 2018, about 1338 mountain standard time, a Grumman TBM-3E airplane, N337VT, is presumed to have impacted terrain following the bailout of the pilot and passenger due to a partial loss of engine power about 8 miles southwest of Mount Baldy, on the Fort Apache Reservation, Arizona. The private pilot and the pilot-rated passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane is presumed to be destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 visual flight rules flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed the Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Maricopa, Arizona, at 1251 destined for the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ), Albuquerque, New Mexico.
According to the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to relocate a newly purchased airplane from a maintenance facility in Stockton, California, to an airport near the pilot's home in Illinois. The airplane had undergone refurbishment as well as condition inspections, during the previous 6 months. Prior to the repositioning flights, the airplane was loaded with substantial emergency and survival gear. Also, in preparation for the trip, the pilot and passenger watched the parachute manufacturer's safety video and the pilot provided an emergency brief and had the passenger practice opening the canopy and prepare for egress.
On the morning of the accident, the airplane flew from the Zamperini Field Airport (TOA) in Torrance, California, to A39. After the pilot refueled the airplane, it departed A39 to the east and climbed to an altitude between 11,500 ft and 12,000 ft. About 45 minutes into the flight, as the airplane approached the route over the highest elevation of the trip, the pilot and passenger heard a loud bang with vibrations and witnessed thick smoke entering the cockpit. The pilot stated that following the event, the engine was operating but not producing enough power to maintain altitude. The passenger stated that he observed sheets of oil exiting the right side of the engine cowling. As the airplane descended, the pilot determined there were no safe landing areas due to trees and terrain, so he decided to bailout about 2,500 ft above ground level (agl).
The passenger bailed out first followed by the pilot. Both parachutes deployed successfully, however the pilot and passenger received serious injuries after landing in trees and falling to the ground. They were unable to call for rescue due to the lack of cell phone coverage in the area, however on the following morning about 1100, a Fort Apache fire service truck that was passing through the area, found the survivors and they were subsequently transported to a nearby medical facility via ambulance.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control radar data revealed that after the bailout the airplane continued eastbound on a stable descending flight path. The last radar return was at 10,000 ft mean sea level (msl), or about 1,900 ft agl. The airplane has not been located and is presumed to have impacted terrain in the area.
Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
KCNY, 4560 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
6 Nautical Miles
27°C / -6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction:
6 knots / , 140°
30.15 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
MARICOPA, AZ (A39)
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (ABQ)
Wreckage and Impact Information
38.814444, -109.653889 (est)
Investigator In Charge (IIC):
Noreen O Price
Additional Participating Persons:
Gary Hendrickson; FAA FSDO; Scottsdale, AZ
The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.