This February 2010 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: Piper Saratoga. Injuries: None. Location: Dolan Spring, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: During the airplane’s last annual inspection, which took place five months before the accident, the pilot/owner noted that the airplane had not been producing full power at takeoff. According to the pilot, the deficiency was not resolved during the inspection, or on subsequent return trips to the maintenance facility. However, the pilot continued to fly the airplane.
On the day of the accident, about 30 minutes into the flight he began to smell fuel. The smell became stronger and was accompanied by a sensation of deceleration with no corresponding engine roughness. The pilot initiated an emergency descent and landed in a dry lake bed. During the landing flare, smoke began to stream from the front of the airplane. The airplane caught fire after landing.
During the post-flight examination it was discovered that the fuel inlet line which connects the fuel servo to the fuel flow divider revealed was loose at the B nut fitting.
The engine was subject to an Airworthiness Directive (AD) number 2008-14-07. The aircraft log entry for the last annual inspection noted that this AD was complied with. The mechanic who performed the inspection stated that in addition to the AD he also used a wrench to confirm the tightness of the fuel inlet line B nut at the fuel flow divider.
Fueling records indicated that at minimum, the airplane had flown 25 to 40 hours since the annual inspection. The mechanic who performed the annual inspection specifically recalled verifying that the B nut fitting was secure.
Probable cause: The fuel flow divider inlet line nut coming loose during cruise flight, resulting in a fuel leak and in-flight fire. The root cause of the loose B-nut fitting could not be determined. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to fly the airplane with a known deficiency.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10LA128
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