This August 2009 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: Cessna 172RG. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Rockaway, N.J. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The CFI and dual/student pilot were practicing maneuvers when the CFI noticed that the left main gear of the airplane was wet. As he looked for the source of the substance he noticed that the oil pressure was critically low and immediately headed back to the airport. On the way, the engine came “to a halt with the propeller stopping” and the CFI elected to land in an empty section of a mall parking lot. The airplane’s nose landing gear hit a curb and the right wing hit a tree before coming to a stop.
An examination of the wreckage revealed the fluid to be oil leaking from the engine, which covered the bottom and empennage section of the airplane. A teardown examination of the engine found the No. 3 and No. 4 pistons with damage consistent with overheating and oil starvation. The lower portion of the No. 3 piston was destroyed. There was no internal or external evidence to account for the oil leak. The engine oil system was examined and found to be unremarkable. The CFI stated that a quart of oil was added, for a total 6.7 quarts of oil in the engine, prior to the accident flight.
Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to oil starvation for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: ERA09LA481.