May 2005 Accident Reports

These May 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 Lance.

Location: St. Charles, Mo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot took off with 36 gallons of fuel in the left tank and 14 gallons in the right tank. Four miles from the intended destination airport the engine lost power. The pilot told investigators that the airplane was at an altitude of 1,500 feet AGL over a suburban area, so there was no time to troubleshoot the problem. Instead he focused on finding an open field to land in. Trees surrounded the only field the pilot saw. The airplane hit trees on its final approach.

The post-crash inspection of the airplane revealed that the fuel selector was set on the right fuel tank, which was empty. The left fuel tank was full.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning by his failure to switch fuel tanks, which resulted in fuel starvation and the loss of engine power.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Jefferson, Texas.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The airplane was flying low over a lake. It was daylight and VFR conditions prevailed. According to witnesses, the airplane had been flying over the water for several minutes. One witness told investigators that the aircraft was so low that the pilot had to pull up to avoid hitting a bridge. The airplane struck an unmarked static power line that extended over the water at an altitude of approximately 55 feet above the surface. The impact with the wire peeled back the roof of the aircraft. The airplane plunged nose-first into the water.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from an unmarked transmission line. A contributing factor was the low altitude flight.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Pikeville, Ky.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot had logged five hours of dual instruction but had not been signed off for solo flight. Upon receipt of his medical certificate, the student pilot took the airplane out for a solo flight. He did not consult with his instructor prior to the flight. During the first attempted landing the aircraft touched down hard and bounced repeatedly. The aircraft came to a stop on the last third of the runway. The firewall was damaged by the repeated impact. The student told investigators that it was his understanding that once he received his medical certificate, he would be authorized to fly an airplane solo.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare, resulting in a hard landing.

Aircraft: Raytheon Bonanza.

Location: South Bay, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had earned his private pilot certificate three months before the crash, was on the return leg of a round-robin flight. The pilot, who did not hold an instrument rating, was flying over flat, featureless terrain just minutes before the end of civil twilight and the beginning of night. There was a crescent moon. Radar returns showed the aircraft in level flight at 4,500 MSL when it entered a descending right turn. Shortly thereafter radar contact and radio communications were lost. The airplane wreckage was located in a sugarcane field near the general vicinity of the last radar return. There was no evidence of a pre-impact mechanical malfunction that may have contributed to the accident nor did investigators find evidence of pilot incapacitation.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control while in cruise flight. Factors include dark night conditions and flat featureless terrain.

Aircraft: Taylorcraft BC12-D.

Location: Englewood, Colo.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who told investigators that he did not have much experience in the aircraft, was cleared for landing on runway 28. The winds were reported as variable from 040° to 350° at 4 knots with gusts to 12 knots. During the landing flare he encountered a strong gust and lost directional control of the aircraft. The aircraft drifted to the left, went off the runway, hit a ditch and nosed over. The pilot attributed the loss of control to his unfamiliarity with the aircraft.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for wind conditions, and his failure to maintain directional control during landing. Contributing factors were the crosswind and the pilot’s lack of familiarity with the aircraft.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: McCammon, Idaho.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Prior to departing on the second leg of the cross-country flight the pilot filled both fuel tanks to capacity, which was 48 usable gallons, equating to approximately 4.8 hours of flight time. The second leg of the flight took three hours and 35 minutes. The pilot was unable to purchase fuel at the intermediate stop. He calculated he had 1.22 hours of fuel remaining, more than enough to fly 65 miles to another airport where fuel was available. He took off again. Approximately 20 minutes later the engine began to run rough. The pilot switched tanks, which resulted in the engine running normal, but just as he was about to proceed to an alternate airport the second tank ran dry and the engine quit. The pilot made an emergency landing in a field. The airplane landed heavily, bounced, hit two small trees, then launched back into the air and hit the ground. The impact sheared off the landing gear. The aircraft slid through a wire fence.

An FAA inspector confirmed the lack of fuel in both fuel tanks. The inspector also observed a homemade placard located above the fuel gauge panel which read, “FUEL GAUGES MAY INDICATE AS MUCH AS 2.5 GALLONS WHEN TANKS ARE EMPTY.”

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to the pilot’s inadequate in-flight decision by failing to refuel while en route, resulting in fuel exhaustion.

Aircraft: Nieuport C-1.

Location: Homestead, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was conducting high-speed taxi testing and the aircraft became airborne. Instead of landing, the pilot decided to continue with the unplanned test flight in order to get familiar with the landing characteristics of the aircraft. The pilot continued in the traffic pattern. After turning onto the downwind leg he reduced power and the aircraft sank noticeably. He applied full throttle but there was no increase in engine rpm. The aircraft continued to descend. The pilot turned the aircraft to the left in order to avoid power lines, but was unsuccessful. The airplane’s propeller clipped a guy-wire for the lines and the aircraft slammed belly-first into the ground.

Probable cause: The reported loss of engine power for undetermined reasons on the downwind leg which resulted in a forced landing, and subsequent in-flight collision with a wire and terrain.

Aircraft: Piper Tri-Pacer.

Location: Thomaston, Ga.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot purchased the airplane two days before the accident. The airplane had accumulated 1.9 hours since its last annual inspection. The pilot was practicing landings. He said that the main wheels touched down normally but when the tailwheel touched down, the airplane pulled hard to the left. The pilot tried to correct with application of right rudder but the airplane continued to the left, and off the side of the runway. The airplane collided with a runway light.

The tailwheel rudder arm assembly was found fractured and separated on the right side. There was evidence of a previous weld repair inboard of the fracture. However, there was no record of the repair in the aircraft’s maintenance records. Investigators determined that the tailwheel rudder arm fractured from overload.

Probable cause: The unapproved repair of the tailwheel rudder arm assembly, which resulted in an overload failure during touchdown and subsequent loss of control of the airplane and on-ground collision with an object.

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