March 2005 Accident Reports

These March 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: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Cameron, W.Va.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot reported he had been flying for about 1.5 hours, and was at an altitude of about 1,300 feet when he encountered snow flurries. He then experienced an engine vibration and drop in power, which continued to worsen despite the application of carburetor heat. The pilot elected to perform a 180° turn toward an airport that was located about 10 miles from his position. The airplane was not able to maintain altitude, and the pilot performed a forced landing in a field. Examination of the airplane did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions but it was noted that the spark plugs were covered with soot. The weather reported near the accident site included a visibility of 2.5 miles with light snow and mist, scattered clouds at 800 feet, a broken ceiling at 2,200 feet, and a temperature and dew point of 31° and 28° Fahrenheit. Review of a carburetor icing probability chart placed the reported temperature and dew point in the moderate icing at cruise power or serious icing at glide power range.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to carburetor icing, which resulted in a forced landing.

Aircraft: Bellanca 17-30A.

Location: Eagleville, Tenn.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, the aircraft was on a night flight, cruising at approximately 2,170 feet AGL when the engine sputtered and lost power. The pilot switched the fuel selector so that the engine was drawing from the main tank rather than the auxiliary fuel tank and established best glide airspeed. He reported the loss of engine power to the air traffic control tower then tried to find a road or clearing for landing, but could not distinguish the terrain in the darkness. When he turned on the landing light he saw that he was heading for a stand of trees. The airplane hit the trees. The pilot told investigators that he had inadvertently allowed the auxiliary tank to run out of fuel before switching to a tank containing fuel.

Probable cause: The pilot’s mismanagement of the fuel supply, resulting in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee Six.

Location: Dunnellon, Fla.

Injuries: 2 Serious

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot departed on a flight in the local area. After the initial climb, he attempted to retard the throttle to a cruise power setting, but the engine did not respond and remained at takeoff power. The pilot elected to return to the airport for an emergency landing. The airplane touched down with the engine still producing takeoff power, and the pilot decided to abort the landing. As the airplane began to climb again the engine started to lose power. The pilot selected an emergency landing area that contained tall trees. The airplane hit the trees and burst into flames. Both the pilot and passenger were able to escape the aircraft.

The post-accident examination revealed that the bolt that connects the throttle linkage to the fuel control arm was missing, and the throttle linkage was disconnected. According to an FAA airworthiness inspector who reviewed the accident airplaness maintenance logbooks, there was no entry in the logbook indicating that any maintenance or repairs had been conducted on the throttle linkage to the fuel control arm.

Probable cause: The improper installation of the bolt that connects the throttle linkage to the fuel control arm by an unknown maintenance person, which resulted in a loss of the bolt, a loss of engine RPM control, and subsequent forced landing and collision with trees.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Madison, Miss.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was attempting her third supervised solo while her CFI waited on the ramp. According to the student pilot, during the landing flare the aircraft ballooned then landed so hard it knocked her headset off. The aircraft continued to porpoise, coming down hard. The student applied the brakes and tried to turn off at a taxiway but one wheel left the pavement and went into the grass. This caused the aircraft to swerve off the runway.

The post-accident investigation revealed damage to the firewall and lower fuselage. In addition the bracket holding the control yoke was bent.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper landing flare, resulting in substantial damage during the hard landing.

Aircraft: Piper Cub.

Location: Andover, N.J.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot who was receiving tailwheel instruction was attempting to land in a crosswind. As the aircraft touched down it began to drift to the left. The flight instructor joined the pilot on the controls, and added power and right rudder in an effort to get the aircraft back to the centerline of the runway. Before this could be accomplished, the left main landing gear struck a snow bank and the airplane swung to the left. The right main landing gear then struck the snow bank, and the airplane nosed over.

Probable cause: Failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll. Factors in the accident were the flight instructor’s delayed remedial action and the crosswind.

Aircraft: Cessna 172H.

Location: Waldport, Ore.

Injuries: 2 Minor

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to take off from a 2,000-foot turf runway. The pilot said the grass on the runway was long, and there were patches of moss in it. During the takeoff roll, the airplane encountered considerable drag. When it finally lifted off, the pilot realized that he did not have the speed or distance to gain enough altitude to clear a row of trees at the end of the runway. The airplane clipped the tops of the trees, then plunged down nose-first. Both wings were bent by the impact.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to attain sufficient altitude/clearance during the takeoff initial climb, which resulted in a collision with trees. A factor was the tall grass on the turf runway, which slowed the airplane’s acceleration during the takeoff roll.

Aircraft: Cessna 172B

Location: South Naknek, Alaska.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot landed in a strong crosswind without incident, but as he turned the airplane on the runway to taxi to parking, a gust of wind lifted the right wing, and the airplane nosed over, receiving structural damage to the wings and tail.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for wind conditions during taxi after landing, which resulted in the airplane nosing over.

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