Cessna 310 (Tesla) Crash at East Palo Alto

Lisa Krieger of the San Jose Mercury News writes on a variety of issues related to this crash: 

The initial investigation was conducted by local law enforcement in conjunction with the FAA. Now the National Transportation Safety Board will take over.

The NTSB’s job will be to examine the wreckage and attempt to determine if the crash was caused by a defective aircraft part, negligent maintenance, or pilot error. The NTSB concedes, however, that it lacks the manpower, the technical expertise, and the funding to do that job properly on its own. Therefore, as a matter of long-standing policy, it will seek engineering assistance from the companies that manufactured the aircraft components in question. In this case, the NTSB will recruit the help of Cessna Aircraft, which manufactured the aircraft involved in the accident, Cessna N5225J, and Teledyne Continental Motors, which manufactured each of the aircraft’s two 260 horsepower C-310 File Photo by Kensavition.comengines. The NTSB will exclude members of the victims’ families and their technical representatives from the investigation, feeling that they have nothing to offer. (Sad but true.)

Of course, the NTSB’s practice of asking the manufacturers for help – a practice it calls “the party system” — presents a conflict of interest.  After all, the manufacturers themselves might be the ones responsible for the accident. Some say that the NTSB’s party system is akin to asking the suspects for help in solving a crime. Nonetheless, the conflict – discussed further here – is ingrained in all NTSB investigations.

It’s no surprise that most NTSB final reports often favor the manufacturers who have “assisted” the NTSB investigators in their work. But perhaps it doesn’t make any difference because, by federal regulation, the NTSB’s probable cause findings are not binding on anyone. The families are free to conduct their own investigation, and in the event of a lawsuit, the NTSB’s conclusions are given no deference whatever. In fact, in the event of litigation, the NTSB conclusions are not even admissible. Aviation attorneys who conduct their own independent investigations find that the NTSB’s conclusions are wrong about 50% of the time.

In one recent example, a Teledyne Continental engine similar to those installed on N5225J quit


Continue Reading Cessna 310 (Tesla) Crash at East Palo Alto: NTSB Probable Cause Investigation

One might think that a twin-engine aircraft is safer than a single-engine aircraft.  After all, if one engine fails, you still have the other to bring you home safely.  That’s the whole point of the second engine, right?

If one of the twin engines fails in cruise flight, maybe that’s true.  But if it quits right after takeoff, the twin can be extremely difficult to handle.  When the aircraft’s landing gear is down, its flaps set, and its airspeed just above the minimum flying speed, the asymetric thrust generated by the operating engine can flip the aircraft onto its back and out of control.  A "Vmc roll", as it is called, is


Continue Reading Tesla Cessna 310 Crash at East Palo Alto: The Paradox of the Twin