Plane lands in marsh after No. 3 cylinder separates in flight

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The private pilot reported that during cruise flight, the Piper PA32’s began to run roughly.

The No. 3 cylinder then separated from the airplane, the engine lost all power, and oil began to cover the windshield.

The pilot flew via instruments and landed in a marsh near Bartow, Florida.

The right wing of the airplane separated after hitting a tree.

Post-accident engine examination revealed impact marks on the engine crankcase where the No. 3 cylinder would have been secured. The marks were consistent with the cylinder impacting the case multiple times.

The examination also revealed that several of the nuts on other cylinders were well below the required 50 ft-lbs of torque.

The engine’s most recent overhaul was completed about 12 years before the accident, and the engine had accrued about 366 hours since that overhaul. There was no record of cylinder removal or replacement since the engine overhaul.

It is likely that undertorqued cylinder nuts allowed the cylinder to come loose and separate from the engine.

The investigation could not determine if the undertorqued condition of the cylinder nuts was the result of an improper overhaul or possible improper undocumented maintenance after the overhaul.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power after the separation of the No. 3 cylinder from the crankcase due to improper maintenance.

NTSB Identification: ERA18LA265

This September 2018 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

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