The commercial pilot entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern at the airport in Watertown, Wisconsin, higher than pattern altitude to avoid a traffic conflict.
While on downwind, he switched the Piper PA-28’s fuel selector and turned on the electric fuel pump. As he turned from downwind onto the base leg of the traffic pattern, he reduced engine power to idle and initiated a glide toward the runway.
On final approach, he realized that the airplane was too low, so he added engine power, but the engine “failed to respond.”
He cycled the fuel pump, the engine surged, and the airplane hit treetops, landing short of the runway.
After landing, he taxied the airplane to the ramp, so it is unlikely there was a fuel issue.
A post-accident engine examination and test run revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to attain a proper glidepath on approach for landing, which resulted in hitting trees. Contributing to the accident was a partial, temporary loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined.
NTSB Identification: GAA17LA090
This November 2016 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.