by LesMis Wing | AuxBeacon News Contributor
[Editor’s Note: On July 20th 2018, a comment and contact submission provided the first of a two part correction to our oversight in not reporting this accident. Part 1 presents the accident and NTSB findings and Part 2 details the Pineda/Tilton/Courter/Carr history. Thank you for politely correcting our omission, we will briefly pin the post before placing into correct sequence.]
Col John E. Tilton Jr., an Airline Transport Pilot and deposed Civil Air Patrol BOG member and former Southeast Region and Alabama Wing commander, flew two Mississippi Wing Civil Air Patrol officers to their deaths on 13 NOV 2012. Lt Col David Williams was the Mississippi Wing Stan/Eval officer and Capt William C. Young was the finance officer for the Major James S. McKinnie Composite Squadron. N717RL, the Piper A-32-300 carrying the three men, crashed into a house in a residential area shortly after takeoff from Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS) around 5:10 p.m. according to authorities. The airplane caught fire and injured one homeowner who received second degree burns but escaped through a window. The family was forced to stay in a motel and the injured party was repeatedly in and out of the hospital for treatment.
Just as you have shown in other stories on your blog, Civil Air Patrol’s spin was all praise that ignored the fact that Tilton had been removed from the Board of Governors for cause and that his membership was previously terminated from the program by former national commander Maj Gen Amy Courter only to be restored by Chuck Carr after Courter timed out. See Part 2 to follow.
“The CAP family is deeply saddened by this tremendous loss,” said Col Carlton Sumner, Mississippi Wing commander. “These fine men served selflessly [not really, as Part 2 will show] in the military and/or in CAP. Their legacy will be marked by tireless service, devotion to duty and with great personal integrity and character. They touched innumerable lives as friends, business associates, mentors, instructors and leaders.”
The NTSB investigation discovered that prior to Col Tilton’s accident flight the airplane had sat in its hangar for the past two months with its fuel tanks half full under varying temperature conditions.
The manager of the hangar facility described the pilot’s preflight inspection as “real quick.”
About 2 minutes after takeoff, the pilot reported an “engine problem” to air traffic control and turned the airplane back toward the airport. The airplane subsequently descended at a steep angle, consistent with a stall, into a house located in a populated area. The airplane impacted the roof, came to rest upside down, and was subsequently mostly consumed in a post-crash fire.
It is [most] likely that condensation occurred in the half-filled fuel tanks during the previous 2 months that the airplane was sitting in the hangar under varying temperature conditions. The pilot had the opportunity to eliminate the condensation during the preflight inspection, but given witness statements indicating that the pilot was in a hurry and his oversight of the under-inflated tire, it is likely that the pilot’s preflight inspection was inadequate, which resulted in his failure to notice the fuel tank condensation.
Probable Cause and Findings
On 7 MAR 2014 the NTSB released their Aviation Accident Final Report on Tilton’s flight The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in his failure to note the water in the fuel tank due to condensation, which subsequently shut down the engine in flight. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s self-induced pressure to expedite the departure.
♦ John E. Tilton Reinstated to Board of Governors
♦ Gen Amy Courter Terminates John E. Tilton’s Civil Air Patrol Membership
♦ Gen Chuck Carr Restores Col John E. Tilton’s Membership