Abbreviated preflight meant to calm passenger’s nerves leads to emergency landing

These October 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 T210N.

Location: Pine River, Minn.

Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said he did an abbreviated preflight inspection of the aircraft because he did not want to make his passenger nervous. He did not visually check the amount of fuel, instead relying on the fuel management computer to determine fuel quantity. The operating manual for the fuel management computer states “The fuel management computer is a fuel flow measuring system and NOT a quantity-sensing device. A visual inspection and positive determination of the usable fuel in the fuel tanks is a necessity.” The flight was normal until the pilot was preparing for landing. As he was on final approach, he felt he was getting too slow so he pushed the throttle to increase power. The engine did not respond. Attempts to restore power were unsuccessful, so the pilot set up for an emergency landing in a field.

The aircraft touched down hard and the landing gear collapsed. The pilot reported no malfunctions with the aircraft or engine prior to the loss of engine power. The post-accident examination determined no fuel was present in the fuel line running from the firewall to the engine. The fuel tanks and lines appeared to be intact and no evidence of fuel leakage was observed.

Probable cause: An inadequate pre-flight inspection by the pilot due to his failure to visually confirm fuel quantity prior to flight, and the resulting fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Piper Tri-Pacer.

Location: Atwood, Ill.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot intended to land on a grass runway. He did not know the area and reported he was tired after a long flight. Just as the aircraft touched down he realized he was landing in a soybean field instead of a runway. He completed the landing anyway, saying he felt it was too late to do a go around. The rough terrain caused the aircraft to nose over. The pilot reported that the accident could have been prevented if he had verified the location of the runway while in the traffic pattern.

Probable cause: The failure to correctly identify the location of the airport.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Somerville, N.J.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: While on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the pilot heard a helicopter announce over the UNICOM frequency that he was “inbound…five miles to the northeast.” The Piper pilot continued in the pattern, and when he was at an altitude of 100 feet on final approach, he saw the helicopter, which was descending towards the taxiway adjacent to the runway he was attempting to land on. The helicopter was about a third of the way down the runway. The pilot applied full power to do a go-around. The plane had climbed to about 20-30 feet above the ground when it encountered the rotorwash of the helicopter. The left wing of the airplane pitched up sharply and the right wing hit the ground. The airplane cartwheeled across the ground, coming to rest on a grassy area between the runway and taxiway.

Probable cause: The delay in executing a go-around, which resulted in an encounter with wake turbulence from a helicopter.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Farmington, N.Y.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was preparing to land on runway 07. He reduced power abeam the numbers on downwind, but delayed applying carburetor heat until after the turn to final. The aircraft was on final approach when the engine lost power. An attempt to restore engine power was fruitless. Realizing he did not have enough altitude to glide to the runway, the pilot chose to land in a field short of the runway. The airplane hit the ground and nosed over, separating the engine and substantially damaging the empennage. According to carburetor icing charts, weather conditions were conducive for ‘serious” carburetor icing at any power setting.

Probable cause: The improper procedures/directives, and the delayed activation of carburetor heat resulting in the loss of engine power and subsequent impact with terrain.

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