Got fuel? This pilot didn’t and ended p in a cornfield

The July 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 150.

Location: Sherrill, Ark.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot did not refuel the plane prior to launching on a solo cross-country flight. He told investigators he did not visually look in the tanks to determine how much fuel he had on board before he took off and he did not refuel en route. The pilot had been flying approximately two hours and 15 minutes and was on the final leg of a solo cross-country flight, approximately a mile from the airport, when the engine lost power. He initiated a forced landing to a cornfield. During the forced landing, the airplane hit cornstalks, the terrain, and came to rest upright in a field. The pilot stated that fuel exhaustion caused the accident.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning/decision making, resulting in the loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Cessna 401B.

Location: Naples, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: During the landing roll the pilot detected a vibration consistent with a wheel shimmy condition. The aircraft became uncontrollable on the ground and the right wing tip collided with the runway. The plane slid to a stop. The post-accident examination revealed the right main landing gear had collapsed due to the failure of the down lock adjustment stud.

According to a mechanic, approximately 3/4 of the fracture face appeared to be old, and 1/4 of the fracture face appeared to be fresh. The maintenance history of the down lock adjustment stud was not determined nor were subsequent efforts to secure the fractured stud for further examinations successful.

Probable cause: The fracture of the right landing gear down lock stud, resulting in the right main landing gear collapse during landing roll.

Aircraft: Piper Warrior.

Location: Okeechobee, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was performing his first solo landing. The landing was under control until the nose wheel touched the runway and the airplane suddenly swerved to the left. The student pilot attempted to correct by applying right rudder but it was ineffective. He retracted the flaps in an effort to transfer weight to the wheels. By this time the airplane had departed the runway onto the grass and the left wing hit a fence. The student pilot’s CFI did not witness the airplane land, but did examine the markings on the runway and grass. According to the CFI the student landed approximately 600 feet down the runway. The markings were consistent with the indication of the left main wheel off the ground while the right main and the nose wheel stayed on the ground traveling in a left direction. The tracks in the grass infer the left wing hit the fence first, which caused the airplane to veer left, which led to the nose of the airplane and right wing to hit the fence. The student pilot told the instructor that he had not applied any brakes. The student pilot did not report mechanical failures or malfunctions to the airplane or any of its systems prior to the accident.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain directional control during landing roll, resulting in the airplane departing the runway and hitting a fence.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Winder, Ga.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot stated that, while in cruise flight, he noticed the airplane required a greater than normal amount of right rudder input to maintain coordinated flight. During landing when the nosewheel touched down, the airplane decelerated rapidly, veered uncontrollably to the right, and nosed over. Examination of the runway revealed a single, wide black skid mark was extended from near the runway centerline to where the airplane came to rest inverted.

Examination of the airplane revealed the upper torque link bolt was fractured with a separated portion of the bolt lodged in the torque link assembly. The bolt showed shear deformation adjacent to the fractures consistent with shear overstress. The lower torque link bolt and the connecting bolt also showed shear deformation. Examination of the forward face of the stop lug on the upper torque link revealed deformation from multiple impacts on the forward face. The pilot stated the airplane’s nose strut had been serviced twice since April 2004, because the nose strut visually appeared low. The mechanic who serviced the strut the day before the accident stated he added nitrogen to the strut to effect a strut extension of approximately two and a half inches. The airplane was flown for two one-hour flights since the strut service.

Probable cause: The improper over-pressurization of the nose gear strut, which resulted in an overload failure of the nose gear upper torque link bolt.

Aircraft: Luscombe 8A.

Location: Merrill, Wis.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: A flight instructor and student were practicing takeoffs and landings with a left crosswind. During the fourth takeoff, which was more than a third of the way down the runway, the student lifted off with “near perfect” directional control, however the plane subsequently yawed 30° to 40° to the right, at which time the student released the controls. The flight instructor immediately assumed the controls and applied full left rudder. The aircraft settled into ground effect. The instructor held the plane in ground effect in an attempt to gain airspeed, however, the plane subsequently settled into a swamp area beyond the end of the runway. There were no known reported malfunctions of the aircraft or engine prior to the accident.

Probable cause: The student’s failure to maintain directional control during the initial climb after takeoff and the flight instructor’s delayed remedial action.

Aircraft: Super Cub.

Location: Jaffrey, N.H.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: During the initial climb after takeoff, the pilot observed that the airplane was not climbing and the engine was losing power. Realizing there was not a suitable area ahead to land, the pilot elected to return to the runway. During the turn back to the runway, the airplane descended into trees.

Examination of the engine and fuel system did not reveal any abnormalities. The temperature and dew point recorded at the airport about the time of the accident were 80° and 52° respectively. A review of an FAA carburetor icing probability chart placed the reported temperature and dew point in the “serious” area of the chart.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power for undetermined reasons.

Aircraft: Bellanca 14-19-3A.

Location: Estes Park, Colo.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said he had just leveled off at his initial cruising altitude of 10,500 feet msl when the engine “sputtered a little bit.” He enriched the mixture and the engine “ran fine for approximately five seconds, then quit.” Despite remedial action, the pilot was unable to restore engine power. He squawked 7700 on the transponder and transmitted a mayday call on the emergency radio frequency, then made a forced landing on a road. During the landing roll, the left wing struck several mail box posts, crushing the outboard portion of the left wing leading edge.

The engine was later functionally tested. No anomalies were noted. Pressurizing each wing tank fuel supply line revealed no anomalies.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power for undetermined reasons resulting in a forced landing.

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