A Cessna 210 aircraft that attempted an emergency landing on a Cayman Brac street last November apparently did so because of an electrical failure on the aircraft, United Kingdom accident investigators surmised in a report.
The two men piloting the small plane, one from Mexico and the other from Colombia, died when the craft collided with two light poles in a heavily wooded and largely undeveloped area about nine miles northeast of Charles Kirkconnell International Airport.
“The aircraft probably suffered an electrical failure which prevented use of the modified fuel system intended to provide additional [travelling] range,” investigators from the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded. “The aircraft then deviated from its original flight path, possibly because the crew intended to divert to Cuba, and its track passed over Cayman Brac.
“Evidence indicates that the pilot attempted to land on a road. The aircraft was destroyed when it encountered obstacles, including poles, beside the road.
“The manner of operation of this aircraft, including extended flights over water and the modified fuel system, introduced risks to the flight of which the crew
must have been aware.”
The UK accident report, released Wednesday evening Cayman time, did not speculate on what the two men intended in their flight that included two landings in Mexico and one in Belize prior to the crash in Cayman Brac, the second largest island in the British Overseas Territory archipelago of the Cayman Islands. However, accident investigators did note that the Cessna’s registration could not be determined between the years 2003 and 2009 and that it was carrying 10, 60-litre containers of fuel.
The plane was registered again sometime during 2009 in Mexico and had a current registration, investigators found.
GPS devices located in the plane’s wreckage indicated separate potential routes for the plane.
“GPS A had an active route selected to a location in Venezuela near its border with Colombia,” UK investigators noted. “GPS B had an active ‘go to’ selected to a point midway between Jamaica and the northernmost point of Colombia.”
The aircraft’s fuel system had undergone what UK investigators referred to as a “significant amateur modification” that added about 600 litres (158 US gallons) to its fuel capacity, allowing the plane to fly farther than normal.
“There was insufficient evidence to determine the purpose of the flight, but there were indications that it was intended to be clandestine, including the modified fuel system, the intended route and the unidentified flight plan destination,” accident investigators wrote. “The recovered documents and GPS data indicated that the aircraft had previously departed Guadalajara for a flight to Chetumal, Mexico; a great circle distance of approximately 858 nm [nautical miles]. This was within the theoretical range of a standard Cessna 210 and appears to have occurred without incident.
“The crew filed a flight plan for an unidentified destination then departed, initially to the north before turning south and crossing the border into Belize,” investigators wrote. “The aircraft landed briefly at an improvised airstrip, then departed and flew east for some 490 nm, at which point the GPS track ended.”
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service released the following statement on the crash Thursday: “It was clear early on in the investigation that the flight this aircraft was embarked on was not in accordance with the international rules of aviation or the subject of any official flight planning.
“Police analysis of the GPS tracks of the aircraft from data supplied by the AAIB recovery of GPS units found on the aircraft showed that the planned route was from Mexico into Venezuela. There was evidence pilots using these GPS Units in the weeks prior had made long distance flights from Central America into Venezuela, returning into unrecognized landing sites in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
“At no time was there any evidence that previous or intended routes included the Cayman Islands, or passing close to the Islands.”
The UK report mentioned nothing about any evidence of illegal drugs aboard the plane. However, it did reveal one of the pilots, referred to as “Pilot A” – who had a lapsed Mexican pilot’s registration – tested positive during a post-mortem for the presence of cocaine metabolites with associated compounds. “Pilot B” was clean, according to the report. He had a Colombian pilot’s licence issued in 1976.
Both men died from injuries suffered during the crash.
The pilots were earlier identified by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service as 35-year-old Mexican national Jose Santos Castaneda Castrejon and Colombian national Fernando Duran Garcia, 56.
Little personal information was available from the report on both men. “Pilot A”, presumably Castaneda Castrejon, held multi-engine flight and instrument ratings as well as a Lear Jet series type-20 rating. Details of “Pilot B’s” experience and qualifications were not available.
The two men piloting the small plane, one from Mexico and the other from Columbia, died when the craft collided with two light poles in a heavily wooded and largely undeveloped area about nine miles northeast of Charles Kirkconnell International Airport.