September 2005 Accident Reports

These September 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: VariEze.

Location: New Cumberland, Pa.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot had 70 hours of experience and had put 30 hours on the accident aircraft since its construction was completed. According to the pilot, on the day of the accident he detected nothing unusual during the engine start or runup. However, approximately five minutes after takeoff, the engine lost power. Attempts to restore power were unsuccessful, and the pilot made a forced landing in a field. The airplane nosed over.

During a post-accident examination the fuel system was examined, and the fuel screens in both fuel tanks were found to be covered in a fine muddy silt, consistent with mud dauber activity. A subsequent fuel analysis revealed high particulate contamination. The fuel tanks had been open during the airplane’s construction.

Probable cause: The owner/builder’s inadequate fuel tank inspection during construction, which resulted in fuel contamination and subsequent fuel starvation.

Aircraft: Bellanca 7ECA.

Location: Malibu, Calif.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: While over the ocean on a fish-spotting mission, the pilot noticed a decrease in engine power. His scan of the cockpit gauges revealed no anomalies, with the exception of a slight rise in oil temperature. He turned back toward land. The oil temperature continued to rise.

The pilot heard a loud bang followed by a vibration. Engine oil spewed over the windshield and the airplane began to lose altitude. There was not sufficient altitude to glide to shore and the pilot ditched the airplane in the ocean about five miles from the coastline.

The plane sank to the ocean floor and could not be recovered for the post-accident investigation.

Probable cause: A partial loss of engine power for undetermined reasons.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Yuma, Ariz.

Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot, who had logged 800 hours including 640 in the accident airplane, was flying from the right seat, with a passenger occupying the left seat in order to take some aerial photographs of nearby property. The airplane was on final approach. The pilot was attempting a full-flap landing. The airplane was descending too fast, so he applied power with the intent of doing a go-around.

According to the pilot, the airplane encountered a gust of wind and stalled on short final. Witnesses stated the airplane was on short final when the nose pitched up to a level position about 50 feet above the ground and then nosed down sharply, hitting the ground. The aircraft came to rest 80 yards from the impact point, then erupted in flames.

The weather observation facility at the airport was reporting the wind at seven knots blowing straight down the runway.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain an adequate airspeed on short final, which resulted in an inadvertent stall.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Faulkton, S.D.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot did not have an instrument rating or a current medical certificate. A review of his logbook showed that he had accumulated 682 hours as of the last entry, which was dated Dec. 8, 1996. The most recent entry for a flight review as required by Federal Aviation Regulation 61.56 was dated Oct. 15, 1996.

On the evening of the accident the aircraft departed from Osceola, Wis. The landing in Faulkton was a fuel stop. The intended final destination was Gettysburg, S.D.

A sheriff’s dispatcher reported that she received a call about 2 a.m. from the pilot saying that he was “out of gas and trying to get home.” She called a gasoline supplier, who said that he would go to the airport. The dispatcher told investigators that it was a very dark and foggy night with visibility limited to no more than two city blocks.

The fuel supplier informed the pilot that to get 100LL avgas, the pilot would need to accompany him to the bulk fuel plant and obtain the fuel using five gallon gasoline cans. The pilot asked him if he had regular unleaded gasoline available. The fueler responded that he did, then left the airport and returned with a fuel truck and proceeded to fuel the airplane with 22.1 gallons of unleaded gasoline.

The fueler asked the pilot why he was flying so late at night and in such poor weather. The pilot responded that “it wasn’t that bad once he got up in the air.” The fueler said that as he was leaving the airport he could see the landing light of the aircraft heading down the runway.

The next day the aircraft was reported overdue. The wreckage was found .63 miles from the airport in a cornfield. Investigators determined that the pilot had flown into the ground. No pre-impact anomalies were found with respect to the airplane.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation during initial climb after takeoff into night instrument meteorological conditions.

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