December 2004 Accident Reports

These December 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 T210.

Location: Abita Springs, La.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 1,483-hour private pilot and a passenger departed on a 308-nautical mile cross-country flight. Approximately 22 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft was observed on radar heading west at the assigned cruise altitude of 6,000 feet msl. A few minutes later the airplane began an unauthorized descent and turned to the northwest toward an uncontrolled airport that was not its original destination. When the airplane was south of the airport, it made a 270° descending turn away from the field, then turned back toward the airport. There were no radio transmissions from the pilot.

The airplane crashed in heavily wooded terrain about 1.2 miles southwest of the airport and was destroyed by post-impact fire. Examination of the airplane revealed the fuel selector valve was turned off. There were no mechanical deficiencies noted with the engine. The pilot’s son told investigators that his father had been having problems with water contamination in the fuel. There was speculation that the engine had quit in flight because of contaminated fuel.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power for undetermined reasons. Also causal was the pilot’s improper in-flight emergency planning when he misjudged his available altitude and made a 270° turn away from the airport instead of proceeding directly to it, which resulted in him landing over a mile short of the runway in heavily wooded terrain.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Hammond, La.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 87-hour non-instrument-rated private pilot departed on the return portion of a cross-country flight at night in marginal VFR weather conditions. A friend reported that the pilot was anxious to get home. The weather deteriorated during the flight. At the time of the accident the visibility at the destination airport was reported as five miles in mist with a ceiling of 500 feet.

A witness standing outside his home approximately 1/4-mile south of the accident site said that he heard the airplane approaching but that he couldn’t see it because of the low clouds. He told investigators that it sounded as if the engine was coughing. He added that he knew the airplane was low because the sound of the engine was so loud. He then heard the impact when the aircraft crashed short of the runway. The plane burst into flames. The cockpit, forward fuselage, and the inboard section of the left wing, including the fuel tank, were consumed by fire, leading investigators to determine that the left tank had been full of fuel. The right wing, including the fuel tank was undamaged. The fuel selector was found set to the right fuel tank position. Investigators determined that the pilot had run the right tank dry. No mechanical deficiencies were noted that could have prevented normal operations.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to the in-flight mismanagement of the available fuel supply.

Aircraft: Cessna P210.

Location: Pawhuska, Okla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The 4,000-hour pilot reported that the engine lost power during cruise flight. He pitched for best rate of glide and attempted to trouble shoot the problem by disengaging the autopilot, advancing the mixture to full, cycling the fuel pump, and switching from the left to right fuel tank. The engine regained power for a few minutes, then lost power again. The pilot elected to land on a gravel road. During the landing roll, the left main wheel separated, and the landing gear collapsed.

After the accident an FAA inspector was able to start the engine using the right fuel tank. The engine ran for approximately 10 minutes before the inspector shut it down using the mixture control. Approximately one gallon of fuel was drained from the left wing fuel tank, 35 gallons from the right wing fuel tank. According to the pilot’s operating handbook, the unusable fuel quantity for both fuel tanks is one gallon. It was suggested that when the pilot switched tanks that he had not positioned the fuel selector valve all the way to the right and had accidentally starved the engine.

Probable cause: The pilot’s mismanagement of fuel by his failure to adequately set the fuel selector lever, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and the loss of engine power.

Aircraft: Piper Warrior.

Location: Holly Springs, Miss.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was practicing touch-and-go landings. The airplane touched down, bounced and veered to the left. The pilot tried to regain directional control using rudder and aileron while simultaneously adding engine power to do a go-around. The airplane went off the left side of the runway and the airplane’s left wing collided with trees.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain directional control while performing a go-around after a bounced landing, resulting in the ground collision with trees.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Belle Fourche, S.D.

Injuries: 3 minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had a total flight time of 69 hours, including 22 hours in the accident airplane. He did not have any night flying experience. His medical certificate had the following limitation: “not valid for night flight or by color signal control.”

The pilot was attempting to land at night in a gusting crosswind. He stated that he had trouble seeing the runway because the landing light ceased to operate during the approach, and that he could not get the instrument panel lights to operate.

After the airplane touched down, a gust of wind moved the airplane to the side. The airplane bounced and then veered off the edge of the runway. The airplane hit terrain and a cement culvert.

The post-accident inspection of the landing/instrument panel lights noted that none of them worked.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for wind conditions and his failure to maintain directional control. Contributing factors were the gusting crosswind, the pilot’s lack of night flying experience and the inoperative lights.

Aircraft: Diamond DA40-180.

Location: Pelzer, S.C.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was instrument rated and flying on an IFR flight plan. When the aircraft arrived at the destination airport the weather was below the approach minimums. The controller asked the pilot if he wanted to divert to his alternate airport. The pilot told the controller that he had not filed for an alternate airport. The controller advised the pilot that nearby Donaldson Center Airport was open and asked the pilot if he would like to divert to that field. The pilot said yes and was given radar vectors for the instrument approach to runway 5 at Donaldson. As the pilot maneuvered for the approach, the airplane descended below 2,500 msl, which is the assigned altitude for the final approach segment. The tower controller issued a low altitude warning. There was no response from the pilot. The elevation of the terrain is approximately 955 feet msl. Attempts to reestablish communication with the pilot were unsuccessful. Radar data showed the airplane losing 600 feet of altitude in a period of 14 seconds before the airplane was lost on radar.

Examination of the crash site revealed a damaged power line 75 feet above the ground and damage to the tops of four trees.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to follow IFR procedures and to maintain assigned altitude, resulting in a collision with a transmission wire and trees.

Aircraft: Piper Archer.

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The CFI and student were practicing power-off approaches. The winds had been variable during the other approaches. On the final attempt the aircraft had a six-knot tailwind. It traveled approximately 2,500 feet down the 4,987-foot runway before touching down. The CFI felt that it was too late to initiate a go-around so the CFI applied the brakes, retracted the flaps and turned the airplane to the right to avoid a ditch. The corrective action was not enough to avoid the ditch.

Probable cause: The flight instructor’s inadequate supervision and inadequate compensation for the tailwind, and delayed remedial action, which resulted in a runway overrun and collision with a ditch.

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