January 2005 Accident Reports

These January 2005 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: Cirrus SR22.

Location: Hood River, Oregon.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot and two passengers were flying from Salem, Oregon, to Hood River, Oregon, at night. The flight was supposed to take less than 30 minutes. The pilot held several certificates, including flight instructor, and had logged approximately 1,140 hours. The pilot was attempting to fly by VFR although IMC prevailed. The pilot allegedly told the owner of the FBO in Salem about “scud running” into the Hood River Airport on several occasions. Radar data indicates that the airplane flew up the Columbia River, which has mountainous terrain on either side. The last radar return indicated the aircraft at an altitude of 2,500 feet. The aircraft hit terrain 100 feet below the ridgeline and approximately five nautical miles from the intended destination. Investigators did not find any pre-impact mechanical problems that might have affected the airplane’s performance.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance. Contributing factors were the mountainous terrain, the low ceiling weather conditions, and dark night conditions.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Coleman, Texas.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was issued an FAA third class medical certificate on July 16, 2002. During the two-year period that his medical was valid he underwent flight training and received several 90-day solo endorsements from a CFI, but did not complete the training to obtain a private pilot certificate. The pilot’s last 90-day solo endorsement was dated July 2, 2004. He attempted to renew his medical when it expired in 2004 but it was denied. The pilot’s logbook showed that he had logged approximately 122 hours. Although he was no longer legal to fly solo, the pilot was known to make short solo flights in the morning. There was no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing on the day of the accident. He took off at 7:30 a.m. At the time the weather was reported as winds from 170° at four knots, with six statute miles visibility, a temperature of 59° and dew point of 59° Fahrenheit. Within the hour the weather had deteriorated to a quarter-mile visibility in fog with a ceiling at 100 feet. At 11:30 a.m. a rancher found the wreckage of the airplane on his property. A helicopter pilot who was slated to do some aerial spraying flights on the morning of the accident stated that he was unable to spray fields near the crash site because the area was fogged in.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning/decision by his continuing VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, resulting in his failure to maintain aircraft control.

Aircraft: Cessna 180.

Location: Billings, Mont.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land. The airplane bounced and the left wing came up. The right wing struck the runway and the aircraft nosed over.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare and failure to maintain aircraft control. The improper recovery from a bounced landing was a contributing factor.

Aircraft: Piper Warrior II.

Location: Decatur, Texas.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot and his CFI were practicing touch and go landings at night. The runway was not equipped with either a PAPI or a VASI. According to the instructor, who had logged 6,150 hours, the pilot allowed the aircraft to get too low during the final approach. The instructor warned the pilot that he “was getting too low” and then the airplane struck powerlines that ran perpendicular to the runway. The impact bent the vertical stabilizer and sheared off approximately 10 inches of rudder. The instructor took control of the airplane and added power. The aircraft hit the ground in a level attitude just short of the runway.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain obstacle clearance and the instructor’s inadequate supervision. Contributing factors were the dark night conditions and the powerline.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Pauma Valley, Calif.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was in cruise flight at 6,500 feet MSL when the engine began sputtering and then quit producing power. The pilot attempted to glide to an airstrip and tried to restart the engine. He performed a series of 360° turns to lose altitude. After coming out of the second turn, the airplane was too low to reach the runway so the pilot landed in an orchard next to the airport. Investigators discovered the airplane had half a tank of fuel in the left wing and the right wing fuel tank was full. Investigators determined that although there was adequate fuel in the aircraft, the fuel was not flowing to the engine. The fuel vent line that extends from the bottom of the left fuel tank and the cross vent line between the right and left fuel tanks were tested and neither line was obstructed. However, it was determined that the fuel caps were not venting properly. The resulting vacuum prevented fuel from reaching the engine.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to a malfunction of the vent system of the fuel tanks.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Leesburg, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated private pilot was attempting to fly in instrument meteorological conditions at night. The pilot had approximately 399 hours, of which 93 were in the accident airplane. According to the pilot’s aircraft partners, the pilot would not fly without the aid of a GPS unit that was yoke-mounted in the aircraft. The partners stated that the pilot often practiced instrument approaches using the unit. At the time of the accident the pilot was not in contact with any ATC facilities and no flight plan was filed. The visibility at the airport at the time of the accident was 1-3/4 miles with mist. The ceiling was at 200 feet. Witnesses stated they heard the airplane on final approach to the airport but could not see it because of the darkness and the cloud cover. They heard the impact when the aircraft went down in a marsh near the airport. When the wreckage was located it was determined that the aircraft had been in a diving turn at the time of impact. Investigators could not find any pre-impact mechanical failures that would have contributed to the accident.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to fly by visual flight rules in dark instrument conditions.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Polkton, N.C.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The engine lost power in cruise flight at night, and the pilot’s attempts to restore engine power, which included switching from the right to left fuel tank and turning on the electric fuel boost pump, were unsuccessful. During the forced landing, the airplane collided with a berm. The post-crash examination revealed the right main fuel tank was empty. The left tank had fuel in it. The electric fuel boost pump operated normally. The airplane’s engine was disassembled, inspected, reassembled, and test run for more than two hours with no mechanical malfunction observed. The engine was reinstalled on the airplane and the aircraft returned to service. A month later the engine lost power again while in flight. Following the second mishap, a more extensive investigation of the engine-driven fuel pump revealed excessive fuel leakage from the shaft seal at the drive end of the pump. Disassembly of the unit revealed the rotor seal at the pump’s drive end was worn beyond manufacturer’s specifications and there was excessive wear and damage to the rotor interface and the drive coupling.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to the failure of the engine-driven fuel pump, which resulted in fuel starvation.

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