NTSB Identification: DEN99LA020.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, November 11, 1998 in ERIE, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/2000
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161, registration: N8236Z
Injuries: 1 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.

The pilot reported that he could not start the engine, and he requested assistance. A battery cart was brought out, and the engine was jump started. While airborne, the pilot smelled something like ether, and decided to land the airplane. He said that the smell got stronger and the engine began to run rough. While taxing off the runway, he smelled raw fuel and saw smoke. After he evacuated the airplane, he saw flames coming from the pilot's side of the engine (aft of the firewall) and the wing root area. A piper representative stated that 'a dead or depleted aircraft battery should not be charged in the aircraft.' This information was not available in the POH. The Service Bulletin #836A had not been performed, and the original aluminum battery cable had not been replaced by a copper battery cable. Representatives from Piper and Gill (the battery manufacturer) said that the aluminum battery cable's resistance increases with age, flight time, and flight cycles. The airplane had accumulated an estimated 18,000 hours of flight time. The fuel lines and the battery cable are 4 to 6 inches apart in the vicinity of the fuel selector. This is the same area where the pilot first observed the fire.

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

The shorting of the aluminum battery wire and the subsequent failure of the fuel line. Factors were the weak/deteriorated battery, the insufficient information in the airplane's POH about charging an airplane's battery, and the fire in the crew compartment.

Full narrative available

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