NTSB Identification: FTW97LA125.
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Accident occurred Saturday, March 15, 1997 in HARTSEL, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/25/1997
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-201T, registration: N38703
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While in cruise flight, the pilot noticed oil on the windshield. He decided to make a forced landing on a dirt road. He said his approach speed was 10 knots higher than normal 'to avoid obstructions,' and he did not use flaps 'because I would not have made it to the road.' The pilot soon realized he was going too fast and would overshoot the road, so he turned towards an adjoining field. He maneuvered the airplane over a buffalo herd and landed. During the landing roll the airplane collided with a fence, rupturing the right wing fuel tank. It was discovered the oil filler cap was missing. The pilot said he checked the oil during preflight and it was 'about one-third down from the top' (about 6 quarts; capacity is 8 quarts). The oil filler cap 'was easily visible and in place,' but he did not physically check it for security. The oil filler cap was eventually located in a recess atop the right bank of cylinders where it had fallen. When the engine was later examined, 3 quarts of oil remained in the crankcase.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's misjudging the proper touchdown point on the dirt road due to excessive airspeed and his failure to deploy flaps. Factors were the partial loss of engine lubricating oil due to the oil filler cap separating because some unknown person failed to properly secure it, and the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection.

Full narrative available

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