Poor fuel flow brings down Piper

Aircraft: Piper Tri-Pacer. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Bangor, Mich. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: On the day before the accident, the owner/pilot made a forced landing to a field due to a loss of engine power.

Examination of the airplane after the off-airport landing revealed that the gascolator screen was almost completely plugged by a flaky, shellac-type material.

The airplane had a history of automotive fuel use, and the FAA inspector who examined the airplane told the pilot that he should have a local mechanic do a thorough fuel system evaluation and flushing before further flight. He reminded the pilot that there were screens in the fuel tanks, carburetor, and in the belly sump that should be checked and cleaned.

On the day of the accident, the pilot and a local mechanic added fuel to the right fuel tank and performed fuel flow tests. The pilot decided to fly.

The engine quit during takeoff. The airplane hit the ground in a left turn and nosed over.

Examination of the airplane after the accident revealed that the carburetor and gascolator screens were 50% obstructed.

According to investigators, neither the pilot or mechanic reported flushing the fuel system to remove the residual fuel system contaminants before the accident flight.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to properly service the fuel system, and subsequent decision to conduct the flight with known fuel system deficiencies, which led to the total loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA348

This June 2012 accident report is are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. Randy Coller says

    Keep in mind, every one of these accidents caused by incompetent (or stupid) pilots results in increased insurance coverage for the rest of us. You can do an “N-number” search on the FAA web page to see who to thank.

  2. Sleepy says

    We went to fly our jet
    My mech said we were set
    Both of us knew faa’s advice was sound
    But we were eager to get of the ground
    Now we just sit stare and cry in our beer
    But we are very smart and have no fear
    Just one problem now
    Need a third class medical – but get it how

    • Tom says

      Sleepy’s advice is sound,
      We are tired of going round and round,
      With the FAA so renown,
      At puting our faces in a frown,
      The third class medical scorned,
      By all of us aviators forlorned.

  3. BJS says

    I think the pilot was preoccupied with his Class 3 medical? The mechanic probably said, “tomorrow you have to go get a Class 3 medical” and it freaked the pilot out?

  4. Tom says

    The screens were clogged up a bit,
    He took off but the engine quit,
    He said “shucks” I sure failed to,
    Flush the system of all that pooh,
    Could have done it right,
    Guess we weren’t too bright,
    The ground came up and we hit.

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