Floatplane destroyed during attempt to outrun hurricane

These September 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: Maule MX-7-235.

Location: Greenville, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The purpose of the flight was to reposition the float-equipped airplane due to an approaching hurricane. The pilot visually checked the fuel tanks before the flight departed and noted the level in both was within three inches from the top. During cruise flight the engine sputtered and the pilot maneuvered the airplane towards a nearby lake. He turned base and final for landing on the lake and, with 40° of flaps selected, the airplane cleared tall trees near the lake. He then pushed the yoke forward, which caused the airplane to accelerate. The airplane landed on the water but the left wing collided with a submerged cypress tree. The pilot stated the loss of engine power was due to fuel exhaustion. A mechanic who helped recover the airplane said both fuel tanks were drained and a total of about 1.5 gallons of fuel were recovered.

Probable cause: Inadequate pre-flight planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Cessna 152.

Location: Waycross, Ga.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land on a 3,000-foot by 200-foot grass runway surrounded by tall trees. The pilot maneuvered over the trees, then set up a steeper than normal approach. The airplane touched down about 500 feet down the runway, which was wet. The pilot said that because of the steep approach the touch down was at a higher than normal speed. The pilot braked but the aircraft hydroplaned and did not stop until it hit a fence.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudging the approach speed to touchdown, and the hydroplaning of the airplane during the landing roll.

Aircraft: Fairchild M-62A-3.

Location: Corsicana, Texas.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: Several people at the airport saw the pilot taxi to the runway run-up area and taxi back to a hangar, where he performed maintenance on the engine. Upon completing work on the engine, he taxied back to the runway, and proceeded to takeoff. A witness on the ground stated the airplane climbed to a few hundred feet above ground, appeared to fly in level flight for a few minutes, and then plunged nose down into the ground.

The post-crash examination of the carburetor revealed the lower piece of the two piece venturi was dislodged and cocked over to one side. The lower piece was fractured and displayed evidence of carbon. The gasket between the upper and lower body of the carburetor was imploded in two locations. Excessive soot and blackening was observed in the carburetor throat.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to a faulty carburetor and the pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed sufficient for flight, resulting in an inadvertent stall/spin during the forced landing after takeoff.

Aircraft: Mooney M20D.

Location: Pagosa Springs, Colo.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot/aircraft owner contracted with a local flight instructor to deliver the airplane to his home in Arizona. Three delivery flights were planned over a period of two months but did not happen because the contract pilot refused to fly because of numerous mechanical issues, including a leaky right fuel tank, inoperative VOR receivers, the magnetic compass dangling by a few wires underneath the instrument panel, and worn fuel cap O-rings. The communication radios were also inoperable and the airplane required a jump-start. Several of the mechanical problems were known to the aircraft owner, who scolded the pilot for his reluctance to fly the aircraft. The owner suggested the pilot fly using a handheld radio and a handheld GPS unit. The pilot refused. After the third aborted delivery attempt the aircraft owner became upset with the instructor and dismissed him, saying he would ferry the airplane himself. The aircraft owner returned to the airport to take possession of his airplane. The 9,000-foot runway was undergoing reconstruction and only 3,900 feet was available for operations. The useable portion of runway was rough and uneven.

The pilot made several attempts to take off but aborted each one. Airport personnel said that when the pilot came into the office, he appeared thoroughly shaken by the experience. He told employees he would not take off from the airport until runway construction had been completed and the entire length of the runway was made available. He also told a mechanic that there was a shimmy in the nose wheel steering. A short time later the pilot appeared to have changed his mind because he initiated takeoff. During the takeoff roll, the airplane departed the left side of the runway and skipped across the ground before striking a 600-pound concrete block and coming to rest inverted. A post-impact fire ensued.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight planning and his failure to maintain directional control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *