Aircraft: Piper Seminole. Injuries: 4 Fatal. Location: West Palm Beach, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The commercial pilot’s most recent flight in a multi-engine airplane was about one year before the accident. He had a total of 298.2 hours of which 46.7 hours were in multi-engine aircraft. He was flying with an instructor at the time of the accident.
During initial climb after takeoff, the instructor reported to the tower controller that the airplane had experienced an engine failure and that they needed to return to the runway. The controller cleared the flight to land on any runway, but the airplane subsequently banked left and hit the ground in a nose-down attitude.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the propeller for the engine that lost power was not in the feathered position and that the landing gear was in the extended position, which is contrary to the published emergency procedure for an engine failure during takeoff.
Post-accident download of avionics data revealed that the left engine lost fuel flow and rpm less than one minute after takeoff power was applied, and examination of the wreckage revealed that the left fuel selector lever and fuel selector valve were found in the off position. The taxiing checklist for the airplane specified that the fuel selectors were to be switched from the on position to the cross-feed position to ensure that the cross-feeds were working properly. The before takeoff checklist specified that the fuel selectors should be set to the on position.
Post-accident ground testing performed in an airplane of the same model as the accident airplane revealed that, when the fuel selectors are moved from the cross-feed position to the on position, the fuel selector passes through the off position. The ground testing also showed that when the test airplane’s left fuel selector was placed in the off position and then takeoff power was applied to both engines, the left engine lost power completely after 36 seconds. Investigators determined that the loss of engine power during the accident flight was consistent with the takeoff having been performed with left fuel selector in the off position.
Probable cause: The failure of both the pilot and the CFI to ensure that the left fuel selector was in the on position for takeoff and their failure to follow the proper procedures when the left engine lost power shortly after takeoff, resulting in an in-flight loss of control.
NTSB Identification: ERA11FA054
This November 2010 accident report is 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.