The pilot reported that, after the Bellanca 8KCAB lifted off after several touch-and-go landings, he suddenly smelled fuel and observed streaming fuel. The fuel appeared to come from the fuel system header tank area and streamed onto the cockpit floor between his feet.
He landed the airplane straight ahead and taxied clear of the active runway in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The airplane caught fire, and the pilot exited through the cockpit door.
Within a minute, the airplane was engulfed in flames. Airport rescue personnel responded and extinguished the fire.
A post-accident examination revealed that almost all of the fuel lines going to or coming from the header tank were completely burned away. Two sections of fuel and vent lines remained attached to the header tank and were examined; no evidence of pre-existing fatigue or cracking was observed.
According to the pilot, who was also the plane’s owner, no recent maintenance had been performed in the area of the header tank. It is likely that a sudden leak occurred at a line to or from the header tank, however, the fire destroyed all evidence of its origin.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as a sudden fuel leak, which resulted in a post-landing fire.
NTSB Identification: ERA14LA178
This March 2014 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.