October 2004 Accident Reports

These October 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 172N.

Location: Germantown, N.Y.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the his logbook, the pilot had 1,231 hours of total flight experience. However, the logbook did not provide a current record of total night experience, recent experience, or simulated instrument experience. He did not have an instrument rating.

Prior to departing on a round-trip flight, the pilot telephoned a flight service station and received a standard weather briefing. The briefer advised the pilot of marginal VFR conditions for the proposed return trip that was to be conducted at night. The pilot was told that VFR flight was not recommended. After completing the first leg of the trip, the pilot again telephoned the flight service station. The second briefing included information about deteriorating weather conditions north and west of the planned route, with the possibility of showers along the route. One of the airports near the route was reporting marginal VFR conditions. The pilot launched on the return flight. He was receiving flight following, and asked the controller how high the clouds were, so that he could get out of them. No further transmissions were received and radar contact was lost. A radar target indicated that the airplane made a 360° turn to the left at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet, then descended rapidly to an altitude of 1,700 feet. A witness on the ground reported seeing the airplane come out of the clouds in a sharp nose down attitude before it crashed into some trees.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning and decision making which led to VFR flight into IMC and loss of aircraft control.

Aircraft: Cessna 185.

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was performing touch and go landings on runway 20. The winds at the time of the accident were reported as 150° at 7 knots with gusts to 15 knots.

During the landing roll the pilot encountered a wind gust that pushed the airplane left of centerline. He tried to correct by applying power and full right rudder but was not able to regain directional control. He reduced power and applied the brakes. The plane swung up on one wheel to the left and the wing and elevator hit the runway.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control during the landing roll, resulting in a ground loop. The crosswind contributed to the accident.

Aircraft: de Havilland Tiger Moth.

Location: Cross City, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot said the aircraft was in cruise flight at an altitude of 2,000 feet agl when the engine surged, then began to lose power. He made a forced landing on an unpaved road. During the landing rollout, the landing gear dug into soft sand, and the airplane jolted to an abrupt halt. The landing gear was destroyed.

The post-crash examination revealed rust in a fuel sample taken from the drain located on the firewall, however no contamination was found in the sample taken from the carburetor.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power for undetermined reasons, which resulted in a forced landing.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Marion, Iowa.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The winds at the time of the accident were reported as 200° at 15 knots with gusts to 19 knots. The pilot, who had approximately 86 hours, including 25 in Piper Cherokees, was attempting to land on runway 17. The airplane was on short final when it encountered turbulence. He elected to do a go-around and applied full power. The airplane was pushed to the left. The pilot applied right rudder and aileron to regain directional control but was unsuccessful. The airplane collided with a hangar on the left side of the runway. The pilot stated that it was possible that the passenger had stomped on the rudder during the go-around. The passenger told investigators that he was not sure if he had hit the rudder pedals or not.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for the gusting wind conditions and his failure to maintain aircraft control.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Eliot, Maine.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The airplane’s fuel system contained 38 gallons of useable fuel. The airplane had been flying for 4.4 hours since the last refueling. The plane was inbound for landing when the engine began to surge.

The pilot, who had 1,200 hours, including 300 hours in a 172, performed a forced landing in a cornfield. The airplane’s nose gear and both wings were damaged.

Examination of the airplane revealed no fuel in either of the fuel tanks. When the fuel line from carburetor was removed, it yielded a few drops of fuel. There was no evidence of a fuel spill at the accident site.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Piper J3 Cub.

Location: Louise, Texas.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The 1,600-hour pilot was attempting to land at a private airstrip. While on the downwind leg he thought he was applying carburetor heat, but inadvertently grabbed the fuel shutoff valve.

He noted that he had recently been flying a Piper J5 Cub, which has a different cockpit layout. The fuel shutoff valve in the J3 is in the same panel location as the carburetor heat in the J5 model.

After turning base, the engine lost power and the airplane descended into trees. The pilot did not notice his mistake until it was too late.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadvertent shutting off of the fuel, resulting in fuel starvation and subsequent loss of engine power.

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