Aircraft: Piper Tomahawk. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Corona, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: After flying for about an hour, the pilot entered the pattern to land. During the approach the engine lost power. Unable to restart the engine, or make it to the runway, he performed a forced landing into an adjacent field, where the airplane sustained substantial damage.
During the subsequent engine teardown, a wasp was found in the carburetor fuel bowl, and a wasp head was located wedged within the inner sleeve of the carburetor metering valve. The head was adjacent to the fuel channel hole, blockage of which would have resulted in a loss of fuel flow to the engine and subsequent loss of engine power.
Both fuel tank vent ports were also found completely blocked with mud that was likely deposited by the wasp. Fuel was present in all the supply lines and the fuel tanks were equipped with venting fuel caps, which were operational.
The only path for a wasp-sized insect to access the carburetor fuel bowl was via the atmospheric bowl vent, the opening of which was located at the carburetor’s air inlet. The vent leads directly to the fuel bowl and is wide enough for a wasp to pass through. The wasp most likely accessed the vent through a hole in the air induction system, a gap in the carburetor-heat door seal, or through the carburetor-heat door opening assuming the door had not been fully closed on the ground.
The airplane’s last annual inspection was performed about 2-1/2 years prior to the accident; however, it is unlikely the wasp would have been discovered during an annual inspection because the carburetor is not an inspection item. The insect would also be difficult to detect during preflight inspection.
Probable cause: Total loss of engine power during the landing approach due to insect debris in the carburetor metering valve, which resulted in fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: WPR13LA009
This October 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.