Attempt to beat thunderstorms proves fatal

These May 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: Lancair.

Location: Allendale, S.C.

Injuries: 4 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot received several preflight briefings through the use of the DUAT system. The forecast indicated thunderstorm activity along the route of flight and the pilot received Convective SIGMETs and Central Weather Advisories warning of developing thunderstorms.

The pilot, who had just over 800 hours, launched on an IFR flight plan into instrument meteorological conditions in an area of known thunderstorms with severe turbulence. In communications with ATC, he stated he was going to attempt to divert around a line of thunderstorms.

A witness on the ground told investigators that he heard the airplane’s engine, then it went quiet. He then heard an explosion, and saw the cabin area of the aircraft come out of the clouds, followed by pieces of the wings. The wreckage of the airplane was found in a wheat field. Investigators determined that the airframe had been overstressed, resulting in an in-flight airframe breakup.

Probable cause: The decision to fly into an area of known thunderstorms and turbulence, which resulted in a failure of the airframe.

Aircraft: Beech Sierra.

Location: Wauseon, Ohio.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held an airline transport certificate, was attempting to make a VFR flight from Michigan to Minnesota. The National Weather Service had issued a warning for an intense low-pressure system, which could cause strong southwest to west winds across the region.

Wind speeds of 30 miles per hour with gusts to 50 mph were predicted. Prior to the flight the pilot obtained a weather briefing using a computer reporting system. According to witnesses at the airport, the wind was blowing so hard no other airplanes were flying.

The pilot took off, but less than an hour later attempted to land at an airport in Ohio. Witnesses said the airplane tracked toward runway 27 descending from 1,900 feet msl to 900 feet msl, and decelerated to a ground speed of 68 knots.

The aircraft crashed within 200 feet of the approach end of the runway. The airport manager told investigators that there were lines of trees on either side of the runway that created a funnel effect and extreme turbulence.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control during the approach. Factors were the high wind gusts and turbulence, and the decision to fly in those conditions.

Aircraft: Piper J3C-65.

Location: Wilmot, Wis.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to do a go-around. During the climb-out, the engine lost power. The pilot set up for a forced landing in a field off the end of the runway then attempted to fix the problem. The engine began producing power again and the pilot attempted to return to the airport.

As the airplane approached the runway, the engine lost power again and this time the pilot’s efforts to restore it were not successful. The pilot made a forced landing in an agricultural field. During the roll out, the airplane hit a barbed wire fence and nosed over. Investigators determined the aircraft had fuel. No mechanical difficulties were found.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power for an undetermined reason, and the unsuitable terrain encountered for the forced landing. A factor was the fence.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Boulder, Colo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land on runway 08. Winds at the time of the accident were approximately seven knots at 090°. The pilot said he was using full flaps and maintaining an airspeed of 70 knots as the aircraft crossed over the runway threshold.

The airplane was approximately 25 feet over the runway when it dropped suddenly and landed hard. It bounced and the pilot applied full power to regain control. He landed on the runway and taxied to the parking area.

The impact with the runway collapsed the nose landing gear, and buckled the firewall. The pilot told investigators he did not hear the stall warning horn nor did he notice a change in the wind direction or velocity.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain control during landing flare/touchdown, which resulted in a hard landing. A contributing factor was the improper flair.

Aircraft: Cessna 210.

Location: Lewiston, Mont.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was preparing for landing. When he reduced power the engine began to run rough.

The pilot reapplied power and the roughness abated. He reduced the power a second time and again the engine ran rough. He reapplied the power and applied flaps to slow the aircraft to landing gear operational speed. He turned to the base leg and when he thought he was in a position to glide to the runway, he reduced the power and the engine quit. The pilot did not have enough altitude to glide to the runway and the airplane landed approximately 350 feet short of the runway in a rocky area that was six inches below the lip of the runway pavement.

The airplane rolled into the lip and the impact knocked the nose gear back, damaged the right main gear, and bent the propeller. A post-accident examination of the engine revealed no anomalies that would have prevented normal operation.

An FAA inspector reported that the distance from the threshold ground level to the overrun pavement surface of six inches exceeds the recommended maximum of three inches, and contributed to the substantial damage of the aircraft.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power for undetermined reasons. The condition of the runway overrun was a factor.

Aircraft: Piper Comanche.

Location: Blaney Park, Mich.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land in gusty winds when he encountered a sudden sink rate on the landing approach. He increased power and backpressure, but it was not enough to stop the aircraft from coming down in a line of trees in the approach zone.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain clearance with the tree line. Contributing factors were the wind gusts and the trees.

Aircraft: Cessna 180.

Location: Yellow Pine, Idaho.

Injuries: 1 fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened: During a flight from a mountain airstrip, GPS tracking indicated the aircraft entered and followed a valley ending in a box canyon and rising terrain. The last tracking point indicated the aircraft made a steep left turn and decreased altitude and increased airspeed.

The aircraft collided with several tall trees before coming to rest inverted. Post-accident inspection of the airframe and engine did not indicate evidence of a mechanical failure or malfunction.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain clearance while maneuvering. Trees, a box canyon and rising terrain were factors.

Aircraft: Cessna P210.

Location: Boise, Idaho.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was practicing instrument approaches. He told investigators that as he came in for the second approach, he forgot to perform the before landing checklist and as a result forgot to lower the landing gear. The aircraft landed wheels up and slid to a stop, coming to rest in an upright position.

The pilot said he didn’t hear the gear warning horn and wasn’t even sure if the aircraft had one. Subsequent examination of the landing gear warning horn system indicated there were no malfunctions with the system which would have prevented normal operation.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to lower the landing gear. Contributing factors included the failure to perform the before landing checklist and his unfamiliarity with the landing gear warning horn system.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Salem, Ore.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said that while cruising at 11,500 feet, the engine slowly started losing power. Thinking it was carburetor icing, the pilot applied carburetor heat.

The engine continued to lose more power. He removed the carburetor heat, but the engine continued to lose power.

Eventually the engine lost enough power that the pilot was unable to hold altitude, and he found it necessary to descend and attempt a forced landing in an open field. Although the touchdown was uneventful, during the landing roll the aircraft encountered some rough terrain, resulting in substantial damage.

A post-accident engine inspection found a large hole in the top of the crankcase, and numerous internal parts failures.

Several components within the engine displayed coloration signatures consistent with heat stress due to lack of lubrication. However, an inspection of the oil filter, oil filter adapter, propeller governor, push rod seals, oil pressure line, dipstick tube, oil sump quick drain, oil pump, tachometer drive, and oil filler port/cap found no evidence of a pre-event oil leak.

The source that triggered the catastrophic engine failure could not be determined.

Probable cause: Loss of power in cruise flight due to a catastrophic engine failure.

Speak Your Mind

*