First flight after installation of new engine ends in crash

These March 2004 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 182.

Location: Eden, Ga.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The aircraft recently had a new engine installed. The pilot was conducting the first post-installation test flight. He started the engine and let it run on the ground for approximately 20 minutes before deciding to take it into the air. The pilot said the engine operated normally during the run up. However, shortly after takeoff the engine lost power.

He turned back to the airport while simultaneously trying to restore power, but was unsuccessful. The plane continued to descend until it collided with the tops of some trees and flipped on to its back.

The post-crash investigation discovered that the mixture control cable had disconnected from the carburetor. When the cable was reattached the engine ran normally.

Probable cause: Loss of engine power due to improper installation of the mixture control cable by maintenance personnel.

Aircraft: Piper Archer III.

Location: Louisville, Ky.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot and instructor pilot intended to practice landings on runway 24. The winds were reported from 200° at 12 knots with gusts to 18. The student was attempting to land on a runway that was 80 feet wide.

While in ground effect the aircraft began to drift to the right. The instructor took control to stop the drift. He lowered the nose and added power, then used a combination of rudder and aileron control in an attempt to realign the plane with the centerline, but the control inputs were not enough. The right wing of the aircraft struck a taxiway identification sign.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain directional control while landing and the CFI’s delayed remedial action.

Aircraft: Murphy Glasair III.

Location: Weatherford, Texas.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The 543-hour pilot was unfamiliar with the airport. He used the runway threshold markings as his aiming point when he came in for a landing in late afternoon. He picked up a passenger then departed again for a local flight. The pilot returned to the airport after sunset. He told investigators that he intended to use the first set of runway lights as his touchdown point since he could not see the threshold markings he had used earlier in the day.

The aircraft touched down just past the lights.

The pilot then realized he was too far down the runway to stop before going off the pavement. He applied power with the intent of doing a go around. The airplane lifted off but did not gain sufficient altitude to get out of ground effect. The aircraft stalled, coming down on an embankment outside the airport property.

During the investigation it was determined that the privately owned, public use airport had nonstandard lighting, which consisted of household light bulbs, and that the system was frequently out of service. The pilot said he most likely landed mid field because he mistook the first lights he saw for the approach end of the runway, when they were actually further down the field.

The lights at the approach end of the runway were out of service at the time of his landing.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudgment of the runway distance due to his misperception of his location on the runway.

Aircraft: Piper Comanche.

Location: West Palm Beach, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The aircraft’s fuel system had recently undergone maintenance. During the post-maintenance test flight the pilot and pilot-rated passenger noticed that there was no movement of the right fuel indicator needle with both main tanks in the “ON” position. They continued the flight. Some time later the engine lost power. The pilot asked the more experienced pilot-rated passenger to take the controls for the forced landing.

The airplane landed in a plowed field. After landing, the pilots noted that the right main tank was full, but the left main tank was empty.

An inspection of the fuel system found the right fuel selector valve was assembled incorrectly, and that it actually blocked the flow of fuel from the tank when the valve was placed in the “ON” position.

Probable cause: The incorrect assembly of the fuel selector valve by maintenance personnel, and the pilot’s failure to make a precautionary landing to assess the fuel situation and lack of movement of the right fuel tank indicator, resulting in fuel starvation and the loss of engine power during cruise flight.

Aircraft: Piper Saratoga.

Location: Harlan, Ky.

Injuries: 6 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot telephoned a flight service station to get a standard weather briefing. He told the briefer that his intent was to make the night flight under visual flight rules. The pilot did not have an instrument rating.

The briefer told the pilot about an overcast layer with bases between 3,000 and 4,000 msl with the tops at 6,000 feet. He also was warned about icing conditions in the clouds and precipitation below 7,000 msl. The pilot elected to launch.

During the flight the aircraft encountered snow while flying over mountainous terrain. The last radar return showed the plane at an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet. The wreckage was found on the side of a mountain at an elevation of 3,050 msl. It was determined the plane had hit the mountain at full speed.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper decision to continue VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions at night and his failure to maintain terrain clearance, resulting in controlled flight into terrain.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Santiam Junction, Ore.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had about 300 hours, was flying low over mountainous terrain in order to show his passengers an area that had been destroyed by a wild fire some months before. The weather at the time of the accident was reported as clear but with gusty winds. The pilot was attempting to cross to the windward side of a ridge at an altitude of 1,000 feet agl.

According to a pilot-rated witness on the ground, it appeared the aircraft encountered a downdraft, then stalled. The pilot was not able to recover before the aircraft hit the terrain.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in a stall while attempting to cross a ridge at low altitude.

Aircraft: Rans S-12.

Location: Lowndesboro, Ala.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot of the homebuilt-ballistic-parachute-equipped aircraft was maneuvering at 1,000 feet agl. He was turning to the right when the aircraft encountered a gust of wind and the aircraft stalled and entered a spin. When efforts to regain control of the aircraft failed, the pilot deployed the ballistic parachute system. The airplane floated down under the canopy and settled in some trees.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain airspeed while maneuvering, which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin.

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