Date & Time: Jul 11, 2007 at 1215 LT
Type of aircraft:
Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain
Landing (descent or approach)
Melbourne - Orlando
United States of America
Crew on board:
Pax on board:
Captain / Total hours on type:
The airplane had undergone routine maintenance, and was returned to service on the day prior to the incident flight. The mechanics who performed the maintenance did not secure the right engine cowling using the procedure outlined in the airplane's maintenance manual. The mechanic who had been working on the outboard side of the right engine could not remember if he had fastened the three primary outboard cowl fasteners before returning the airplane to service. During the first flight following the maintenance, the right engine's top cowling departed the airplane. The pilot secured the right engine, but the airplane was unable to maintain altitude, so he then identified a forced landing site. The airplane did not have a sufficient glidepath to clear a tree line and buildings, so he landed the airplane in a clear area about 1,500 yards short of the intended landing area. The airplane came to rest in a field of scrub brush, and about 5 minutes after the pilot deplaned, the grass under the left engine ignited. The subsequent brush fire consumed the airplane. Examination of the right engine cowling revealed that the outboard latching fasteners were set to the "open" position. When asked about the security of the cowling during the preflight inspection, the pilot stated that he "just missed it."
The mechanic's failure to secure the right engine cowling fasteners. Contributing to the incident was the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection.