Attempt to fly Hellcat under power lines and tragically

These October 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: Grumman Hellcat.

Location: Monterey, Tenn.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Prior to takeoff the pilot, who held an airline transport rating, told people that he intended to fly VFR to his destination by following a local interstate. No flight plan was filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the flight. The weather at the accident site was reported as 500 foot overcast, with five miles visibility in mist. Several motorists observed the World War II vintage aircraft flying low over the road. One witness said the aircraft could not have been more than 100 feet above the ground. Another reported seeing the aircraft attempting to fly under power lines. The plane hit the lowest line, then burst into flames and plunged to the ground.

The post-accident examination of the engine found high-tension cable wrapped around the crankshaft between the prop and engine case.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight planning and inadequate evaluation of the weather, inadequate visual lookout, and his failure to maintain clearance from obstacles, resulting in the in-flight collision with power lines.

Aircraft: Aviat Husky.

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The CFI was giving landing instruction to a pilot-rated student during an off airport landing. During the landing roll, the student applied the brakes excessively and the airplane nosed over. The flight instructor told investigators that perhaps his expectations and the desired outcome of the maneuver had not been properly communicated to the student.

Probable cause: The flight instructor’s inadequate supervision of the pilot during the landing roll, which resulted in the excessive application of brakes and the airplane nosing over.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Pineville, Ky.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot held an airplane transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land and a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He also held type ratings in the B-727, CE-500, DC-9, and Learjet. At the time of the accident he had logged more than 16,962 hours.

Prior to his departure, the pilot received a weather briefing, during which the briefer told him that VFR flight was not recommended along his route, due to mountain obscuration because of low clouds and fog. The pilot filed a VFR flight plan and departed. He obtaining flight following. The flight was uneventful until the airplane hit a mountain at an elevation of 2,360 feet, approximately 200 feet from the peak. The peak was obscured by thick fog.

Investigators determined that the aircraft had been in controlled flight when it flew in to the mountain.

Probable cause: The pilot’s continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.

Aircraft: Cessna 172RG.

Location: Union City, Ohio.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot did not have an instrument rating but was attempting to fly in instrument meteorological conditions on a dark night. There was no record of the pilot having received a pre-flight weather briefing or filing a flight plan. During the flight the pilot was in contact with air traffic controllers. Transcripts of the conversation show the controllers making several attempts to contact the pilot and the pilot not responding, then the pilot asking the controller for help because he was lost. The controller lost radar contact with the aircraft and a short time later the airplane flew into the ground and burst into flames. A GPS unit was found in the wreckage but was too badly damaged to be used in the investigation.

The on-scene examination of the airplane and its systems did not reveal any evidence of a pre-impact failure.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to perform a preflight weather evaluation that led to his inadvertent flight into instrument conditions and his spatial disorientation. The low ceilings and the dark night were contributing factors.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Imperial, Neb.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was attempting to practice a short-field takeoff. According to the student, just as the aircraft was about to lift off, a gust of wind picked up the right wing. The airplane swerved to the left. The student pilot determined that the aircraft was out of control and turned off the fuel pump, cut off the fuel and grabbed the door handle. The airplane went off the runway and into soft dirt. The impact with the dirt broke off the nose gear and bent the propeller. The airplane came to a stop when the left wing struck the post of a fence that ran parallel to the runway.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane during the takeoff.

Aircraft: Piper Pacer.

Location: New Century, Kan.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: A student pilot was practicing night touch and goes under the supervision of a CFI. The aircraft touched down, then took off again. When the plane was about 200 feet in the air the engine sputtered, then quit.

The instructor took control of the aircraft and performed a forced landing on a grassy area near the runway. During the ground roll, the left main landing gear struck an unlit metal box. The impact collapsed the landing gear. The airplane spun around, coming to rest next to a taxiway.

Tests on the engine failed to uncover the cause of the loss of engine power. However, it was noted that at the time of the accident the temperature and dew point spread created a high probability of carburetor icing. The student pilot stated that he had applied carburetor heat when the aircraft was on downwind to verify that it was working, then turned it off when the aircraft turned final. The instructor confirmed this. According to the information from Piper Aircraft Corp. and Textron-Lycoming, since 1989 they have required the application of carburetor heat prior to the reduction of power and its continued use throughout low-power operations such as landing.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to the pilot’s improper use of carburetor heat and his improper in-flight planning/decision. Contributing factors were the inadequate supervision by the flight instructor, conditions conducive to carburetor ice, dark night light conditions, and an unlit box.

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