Cross-country flight ends in farmer’s field

These January 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Garner, Iowa.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was on a cross-country flight. He told investigators he didn’t calculate his fuel consumption prior to departure, but as he passed over an airport that marked the halfway point of the journey, he noticed his fuel was getting low. He didn’t land to refuel. A short time later the engine quit from fuel exhaustion. He attempted to make a landing on a road, but stalled the aircraft 300 feet in the air. He recovered from the stall and the aircraft touched down hard in a plowed field next to the road. The nosewheel collapsed and the aircraft nosed over.

Probable cause: Improper in-flight fuel planning, resulting in exhaustion of the fuel supply, and the collapse of the nose gear during the forced landing.

Aircraft: Piper Seneca.

Location: Bountiful, Utah.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was flying in instrument meteorological conditions on a moonless night. He was attempting to maneuver for landing on runway 16. He could see a fog bank to the west of the runway, but the runway itself was clear. The aircraft was on short final and the pilot had the runway lights in sight when the aircraft descended into fog. The pilot lost visual contact with the runway and initiated a missed approach by applying full power, pitching up and making a turn to the east. Seconds later the bottom of the airplane struck power lines. The pilot proceeded to another airport and performed an uneventful approach. The pilot said he did not get a down and locked indication for the nose wheel but proceeded to land anyway. On landing, the nose gear collapsed and the airplane skidded down the runway on its nose cowling until it came to a stop. An examination of the aircraft showed that the nose wheel had been bent backward by the power lines and there was damage along the bottom of the aircraft. Examination of the accident area showed broken power poles and downed power lines.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain clearance from the power lines and the decision to maneuver without noting where the power lines were. Factors contributing to the accident were the inability to see the power lines, the dark night, the fog, and the power lines.

Aircraft: Aeronca 7AC.

Location: Jean, Nev.

Injuries: 3 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilots of an Aeronca and a Boeing PT-17 planned to depart as a flight of two. The pilot of the Aeronca attempted to hand prop his aircraft. He did not have someone sitting at the controls of the aircraft when he grabbed the propeller. The aircraft was not secured, so when the engine started, the Aeronca started to move.

A bystander grabbed its tail but could not stop the aircraft. The pilot of the Aeronca made a grab for it but couldn’t catch it either. Another bystander tried to help stop the Aeronca but was knocked to the ground and struck his head. The airplane veered to the right and collided with the Boeing PT-17, which was parked in the run-up area with its engine idling. The pilot of the PT-17 was not injured.

Probable cause: The use of an improper starting procedure and the failure to obtain appropriate assistance.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Charleston, Mo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

The recreational pilot said the elevator control was very stiff. When he attempted to land he had trouble pulling the nose up to flare. The first approach was followed by a go around. On the second approach the aircraft landed hard in a nose-down attitude, damaging the nosewheel. Investigators did not find excessive play in the elevator or rudder. However, the elevator trim cable did not possess the 10 to 20 pound tension cited in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.

Probable cause:

The inadequate flare by the pilot. The loose trim tab cable was a factor.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Edgewater, Fla.

Injuries: 4 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

A CFI and a student pilot were flying at an altitude of 4,400 feet agl when they saw the accident aircraft flying about 1,000 feet below them in the one o’clock position. The CFI told his student they would watch the Cessna so that they could maneuver clear of it because they did not know what the Cessna pilot was going to do. Both the student and CFI told investigators that it appeared that the Cessna turned to the right and snapped into a dive. The Cessna was in a near vertical attitude when part of a control surface broke off the aircraft. The Cessna entered a spin, then struck the ground. The outboard section of the left wing with the aileron still attached was recovered near the wreckage. The outboard section of the right wing was located near the left wing. Investigators determined the flaps were in the 10° down position at the time of the accident. Radar data showed the Cessna had been flying at an altitude of approximately 3,300 agl and that the airspeed varied from 90 knots to 53 knots.

Visual examination of the components revealed features typical of overstress separation. No evidence of fatigue cracking or corrosion damage was noted. No preexisting airframe failure was found that would have led to loss of control or in-flight breakup. The pilot of the Cessna held a flight instructor certificate. He was seated in the right front seat of the aircraft. His brother-in-law was in the left front seat and did not possess a pilot’s license. Investigators could not determine who was flying the aircraft at the time of the accident.

Probable cause:

The in-flight loss of control and the failure to recover from the resulting dive, which resulted in flight beyond the design stress limits of the airplane and subsequent in-flight airframe breakup.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Everglades, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

A CFI and his student were attempting to land on runway 33. The student was flying the aircraft and had stabilized the approach. As the aircraft crossed the runway threshold, the student brought the power to idle and entered the landing flare. The aircraft touched down hard and bounced back into the air. The student applied full power to initiate a go-around. The aircraft pitched up and banked 10° to the left. The instructor took control of the aircraft and banked it to the right. The aircraft drifted toward the grass edge of the runway where it struck a runway edge light. The instructor continued the go-around, raising the flaps and ensuring the carburetor heat was off. The aircraft reached an altitude of 100 feet above ground but did not climb any higher. In order to avoid trees beyond the departure end of the runway, the instructor initiated a shallow left turn. The aircraft stalled, then entered a spin and crashed.

Probable cause:

The instructor’s failure to maintain airspeed during climb after lift off from an aborted landing, resulting in the airplane stalling, entering a spin and crashing. Contributing to the accident was the instructor’s improper monitoring of the student and the instructor’s failure to abort an attempted go around when directional control was lost.

Aircraft: Piper Tomahawk.

Location: Mansfield, Mo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

The pilot was practicing touch and go landings. The weather at the time of the accident was clear, with a temperature of 1° Celsius. On the third landing the pilot turned on the base leg and realized that the wind was blowing her away from the runway. She increased the throttle to counteract the wind, but the engine did not respond. She attempted to restore engine power by enriching the mixture and adding carburetor heat, but still the engine did not respond. Realizing she could not reach the runway, the pilot attempted to land on a two-lane dirt road. The aircraft touched down and the left wing struck a tree. Following the accident the engine started normally. According to the engine manufacturer, the weather conditions were conducive to carburetor icing at any power setting.

Probable cause:

The failure to use carburetor heat, which resulted in the formation of carburetor ice and the loss of engine power.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Everglades City, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

The student pilot and his CFI were practicing touch and go landings. Despite the CFI’s admonishment to use rudder only to maintain directional control, the student had his feet on the brakes when the aircraft landed. The left main tire burst. The aircraft veered to the left. The aircraft went off the runway, coming to rest in some bushes.

Probable cause:

The student’s improper use of brakes at the landing touchdown, which caused the left main tire to burst, resulting in a loss of directional control of the airplane, and the subsequent impact with bushes.

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