Failure to use carb heat lands plane in a ditch

This March 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Alon Aircoupe.
Location: Ravenna, Ohio.
Injuries: 2 Minor.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, the airplane was in cruise flight when the engine lost power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine. When that was unsuccessful he turned over control of the aircraft to his passenger, who was an airline pilot with more experience.

Best glide speed was established and the pilot contacted Approach Control for vectors to the nearest airport. Vectors were given and the pilots turned toward the nearest airport. However, the airplane lacked sufficient altitude to glide to the runway and came down a mile short of the field. The airplane hit a ditch.

The post-accident inspection did not uncover any mechanical difficulties. There was fuel in the airplane. However, it was noted that in the pilots’ written accounts of the event, neither reported the application of carburetor heat when they attempted to restart the engine. Investigators determined that the weather conditions at the time of the accident were conducive to a “serious carburetor icing problem.”

Probable cause: The failure to use carburetor heat in cruise flight.

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