Two die when plane crashes in dense fog

These July 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 172.

Location: Paris, Ark.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: A witness who lived on a farm next to the airport said he heard the airplane early in the morning but could not see it because of fog. The witness said it sounded like the airplane was revving up for takeoff, then he heard what sounded like something hitting a building.

Later that day, when the fog lifted, the wreckage was discovered in a pasture surrounded by trees. Several of the trees exhibited damage consistent with having been struck by an airplane.

An examination of the airplane’s systems revealed no anomalies. The weather at an airport a half-mile from the crash was reported as marginal VFR with low clouds. The pilot did not have an instrument rating. Investigators speculated the pilot became disorientated when he entered the fog.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight preparation, his attempted flight into adverse weather conditions, and his failure to maintain clearance from the terrain in the airplane’s collision with the ground.

Aircraft: Cessna T210.

Location: Cheyenne, Wyo.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said the flight was uneventful, but as he was on final approach for the runway, the engine lost power. The attempt to restore power was unsuccessful. The pilot elected to make a forced landing in a field short of the runway. The airplane struck a fiber optics cable then landed hard, striking a deep irrigation ditch. The landing gear was sheared off and the nose gear penetrated the cabin floor. The bottom half of the engine cowling was crushed, the left wing tip was torn off, the engine mounts were broken, and the vertical stabilizer was dented.

The post-accident examination revealed that the bolt and nut that attaches the throttle control cable to the fuel induction was missing.

Examination of the aircraft maintenance records revealed on April 1, 2004, the engine was removed from the airframe and inspected for metal contamination. Engine removal would necessitate detaching the throttle control cable from the fuel induction.

Probable cause: The detachment of the nut and bolt that attaches the throttle control cable to the fuel induction due to improper maintenance.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Paxton, Mass.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was preparing for a cross-country flight. During the preflight inspection of the airplane, the pilot, through the use of a stick-type fuel gauge, determined that the right fuel tank contained seven gallons of fuel, and that the left fuel tank was full. Based on previous flights, he had planned that the engine would consume an average of six gallons of fuel per hour, and for the total flight time to be two hours, 40 minutes. However, the fuel gauge was calibrated for a different model airplane that had the same size fuel tank, but a greater amount of useable fuel than the accident airplane.

The pilot was familiar with the route, but on the accident flight, he elected to climb the airplane to 8,500 feet, which was a higher altitude than normal for him. As he approached the destination airport the pilot began to descend. During the descent, the engine stopped and could not be restarted. There was no suitable terrain for a forced landing and the pilot landed in trees less than a mile from the airport. The duration of the flight was two hours, 44 minutes. The post-accident investigation determined the airplane had run out of fuel.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and a subsequent forced landing.

Aircraft: Ercoupe.

Location: Lake City, Mich.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to take off from runway 27. Just before the accident the winds near the accident site were recorded as 120° at 11 knots. The pilot reported that the aircraft accelerated to just over 85 miles per hour on the turf runway, but would not lift off. The pilot realized he was not gaining altitude but running out of runway so he reduced the throttle and applied the brakes. The airplane bounced off of the ground, hit the end of the runway and crossed the road adjacent to the departure end of the runway and came to rest in the ditch on the other side of the road.

Probable cause: The pilot selecting the wrong runway for the wind conditions and his delay in aborting the takeoff, resulting in the airplane running off the departure end of the runway and into a ditch.

Aircraft: Cessna 421B.

Location: Portland, Maine.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The airplane had been parked on the ramp during a thunderstorm. Line personnel told the pilot that the aircraft had not been secured well enough and the combination of heavy rain and strong winds had pushed the unoccupied aircraft 25 feet across the ramp. The pilot inspected the aircraft, found no anomalies, and then took off. As he retracted the landing gear he heard an unfamiliar clunking sound. During the approach to the destination airport, the pilot extended the landing gear and noted all three of the landing gear down and locked indicator lights were green. However, during the rollout he heard the “clunk” noise again, and the right wing began to settle lower than normal. The airplane then began to veer to the right and came to rest in the grass on the right side of runway. Examination of the right main landing gear revealed that two components of the down-lock mechanism had broken. Metallurgical examination revealed features typical of overstress separation. The fractures contained no evidence of fatigue.

Probable cause: Failure of the right main landing gear down-lock mechanism resulting in the collapse of the right main landing gear.

Aircraft: Champion 7AC.

Location: San Antonio, Texas.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was flying slowly over a wild animal orphanage in order to observe the animals. The pilot estimated his altitude to be 1,500 agl. The pilot initiated a 180° turn. In the middle of the maneuver, the pilot noticed that the airplane was losing altitude. He rolled the wings level in an effort to arrest the descent, but was unable to maintain altitude. The airplane came to rest nose down in a wooded area inside the animal sanctuary. The calculated density altitude was estimated to be approximately 3,288 feet at the time of the accident. No mechanical problems were found with the aircraft.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain minimum required airspeed while maneuvering, resulting in an inadvertent stall of the airplane.

Aircraft: Stinson 108.

Location: White Post, Va.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot/mechanic performed the annual inspection on the aircraft then took off on a post-maintenance flight. The pilot/mechanic said the aircraft flew normally until final approach. When he added the last notch of flaps, he heard a noise that he described as a “ping.” He reduced the throttle. The airplane started to descend faster than he wanted it to. He tried to arrest the descent by pulling back on the yoke, but the aircraft would not respond. The airplane dove to the ground and nosed over.

During the post-crash inspection an FAA examiner stated that when he pulled the yoke back to achieve up elevator movement, the travel was restricted by a radio rack. The radio rack was tight in place and there was no evidence that it had shifted or was loose.

Further, the up elevator movement was half of that specified for the airplane, while the down elevator movement was 150% of that specified.

Probable cause: The pilot/ mechanic’s improper annual inspection, including his rigging of the elevator flight control, and his subsequent inadequate preflight inspection of the airplane prior to flight, when he failed to detect the improperly rigged elevator flight control, both of which resulted in restricted up elevator control during the flare.

Aircraft: Cessna 310.

Location: Knox, Ind.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: Five miles from the airport the pilot lowered the landing gear in preparation for landing. The landing gear position indicator light for the right wheel did not illuminate. The pilot recycled the gear. On the second try all three lights illuminated. As the airplane touched down the gear warning horn sounded and the right main landing gear light went out. The right main landing gear collapsed.

Investigators found multiple indentations along the brace assembly of the landing gear along with oxidization consistent with fatigue.

Probable cause: The fatigue fracture of the main landing gear assembly.

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