About an hour and a half into the cross-country flight and while on approach to the airport in Charlottesville, Va., the pilot reported a loss of engine power. He was unable to glide the Beech A36TC to the airport, and it subsequently hit trees and the ground in a residential area about three miles from the airport. The pilot was killed in the crash.
He had completely fueled the airplane before departure, and adequate fuel remained onboard at the time of the engine power loss.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the three-position fuel selector handle was positioned in between the left and right tank detents, which would have restricted fuel flow to the engine.
A subsequent test run of the engine was performed successfully, and no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures was found.
The airplane’s before landing checklist instructed the pilot to move the fuel selector valve to the fuller fuel tank for landing. It is likely that, while on approach and preparing the airplane to land, he switched fuel tanks and then inadvertently failed to ensure that the fuel selector handle was fully positioned in the detent of the fuel tank he intended to select.
During the crash, the pilot’s shoulder harness separated, and his cause of death was attributed to blunt force trauma to the torso. The autopsy also reported a near-complete transection of the thoracic aorta. If the pilot’s shoulder harness had remained intact, the risk of traumatic transection of the aorta would have been significantly reduced and the pilot likely would only have incurred serious, not fatal, injuries.
Examination of the shoulder harness revealed that the belt had separated about 31 inches from where the fastener connected to the lap belt. The location of the separation corresponded approximately to where the belt would pass through the D-ring behind the pilot’s shoulder. The belt separation area exhibited about 0.25-inch fraying on one edge and 1.25-inch fraying on the other edge along a total area of about 7.75 inches.
The shoulder harness manufacturer’s component maintenance manual states that the acceptable limit for webbing fraying was a 6-inch area. Microscopic examination of the separated fibers revealed that they had separated in overload.
The airplane’s maintenance manual and an FAA advisory circular contained information pertaining to the inspection of shoulder harnesses during 100-hour or annual inspections. The airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed about a month before the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to position the fuel selector handle in a fuel tank detent, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the pilot’s fatal injuries was the separation of his shoulder harness due to overload in an area of excessive fraying.
NTSB Identification: ERA14FA075
This December 2013 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.