April 2005 Accident Reports

These April 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: Cessna 152.

Location: Jacksonville, N.C.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft Damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: A student pilot and a CFI took off for an instructional flight. According to the instructor, their intent was to practice landings. During the climb out the airplane started to make a “sputtering” sound, the engine RPM dropped from 2,500 to 1,900, and the airspeed decreased to 60 knots despite application of fuel throttle. The instructor took over the flight controls with the intent of performing a forced landing on the runway. The airplane did not have sufficient altitude to fly a full pattern and the airplane landed approximately 145 yards short of the runway. The impact collapsed the nose gear and buckled the firewall. Examination of the engine controls revealed that the mixture cable was broken.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to the failure of the mixture cable, which resulted in fuel starvation.

Aircraft: Beech Baron.

Location: Fort Collins, Colo.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft Damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had 1,024 hours, including 200 in the accident airplane. There were several witnesses to the accident who told investigators that as the aircraft was approaching the airport it appeared as though the left engine was not producing power. Witnesses said the left engine was “running rough, cutting out, or backfiring and sputtering.” Another witness reported that the aircraft appeared to be high and extremely fast, with the left propeller windmilling as it crossed the landing threshold. The witnesses stated that the pilot increased engine power, then the aircraft banked sharply to the left. At 100-150 feet above the ground the plane rolled inverted and crashed into a building, exploding in flames.

The post-crash investigation involved the disassembly and inspection of both engines. There was carbon fouling of the top and bottom spark plugs from two cylinders on the left engine. It was determined that the left engine was not producing power at the time of the crash and the propeller was not feathered. The right propeller was in a low-pitch, high RPM setting and the engine was operating at moderate or high power at the time of the crash. Procedures for doing a single-engine approach for the aircraft indicated that the propeller on the engine that is not producing power should be feathered to reduce drag. In addition single-engine go-arounds are not recommended.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control. Contributing factors were the left engine loss of power for undetermined reasons, and the pilot allowing the airspeed to drop below Vmc during an attempted single-engine go-around.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee Arrow.

Location: Green Creek, N.J.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft Damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The two private pilots departed on a moonless night in VFR conditions to practice instrument approach procedures. The pilot in the left seat held an instrument rating. The pilot in the right seat did not. The arrival airport was surrounded by water on three sides. Examination of radar data revealed that the airplane followed the southeasterly procedure track for the intermediate segment of a published localizer approach. The airplane flew through the localizer final approach course, then 30 seconds later turned to intercept the course. Once established on the localizer course, the airplane appeared to be doing S-turns back and forth across the course throughout the approach. The airplane crossed on the east side of the final approach fix at 1,200 feet MSL, which was 300 feet below the minimum descent altitude for that segment of the approach. The aircraft continued to descend. The minimum descent altitude for the final segment was 340 feet MSL. For the next two miles, the airplane gradually drifted to the southwest, crossing the localizer at 100 feet MSL. Radar contact was lost. The airplane crashed two miles before the runway. The wreckage path was 520 feet long through trees. Examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact anomalies.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance while executing a practice published instrument approach in night visual meteorological conditions.

Aircraft: Cessna 310J.

Location: Union City, S.C.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft Damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, upon returning from a cross-country flight, he prepared to land on runway 23. As the airplane touched down it bounced and veered to the right. The pilot applied the left brake and right engine power in an attempt to regain directional control of the airplane but was unsuccessful. Full power was added to abort the landing but the airplane did not regain flying speed before running out of runway. When the pilot realized he could not get airborne before running out of runway, he reduced the power in an attempt to stop the airplane. The airplane overran the departure end of the runway and collided with a berm. The impact buckled the fuselage and sheared off the right main landing gear. The outboard section of the right wing also was damaged.

Probable cause: The pilot’s delay in aborting the landing. A contributing factor was the failure to maintain directional control.

Aircraft: Cessna 152.

Location: Shawnee, Okla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft Damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The 99-hour student pilot was attempting to land on runway 17. He had logged 2.4 hours of solo time. The winds at the time of the accident were from 200° at 8 knots. According to the pilot, while on final approach to runway 17, his airspeed was 61 knots. When he reached the runway, he reduced the throttle and flared and the airplane hit the runway hard and bounced back into the air. The pilot lowered the nose and flared the airplane again. When the airplane touched down the second time, it came down left of the centerline. The pilot applied right rudder. The nose gear collapsed and the airplane’s nose struck the ground. The airplane skidded to a stop.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper landing flare and inadequate recovery from a bounced landing. A factor was the prevailing crosswind.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Griffin, Ga.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft Damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was practicing touch and go landings. During the landing roll, the pilot lost directional control of the airplane, and veered off the left side of the runway and collided with a ditch, bending the nosewheel and buckling the left wing spar.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll, which resulted in an on-ground collision with a ditch.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: San Jose, Calif.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft Damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The solo student pilot was practicing a soft field landing. Previously, he had been practicing short and soft field takeoffs and landings with his instructor. The instructor believed the student pilot was ready to practice on his own. The accident flight was the student’s fourth solo flight. The student told investigators that he flared too high and reduced the power to idle at the same time, which resulted in a hard landing.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s misjudged landing flare, which resulted in a hard landing.

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