NTSB Identification: LAX99LA063.
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Accident occurred Thursday, December 31, 1998 in ESPARTO, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/17/2001
Aircraft: Richard Young HARMON ROCKET II, registration: N288M
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Minor.

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

Ground witnesses heard the engine make a 'pop' sound on downwind and observed flames coming from the rear cowl area. The passenger reported that he observed light haze of smoke in the cockpit on base leg, then flames and dark black smoke filled the cabin as the airplane turned onto final. The pilot landed hard and the airplane ground looped to a stop. The pilot had difficulty opening the canopy and sustained serious burns. The engine and components of the accessory section at the rear of the engine exhibited thermal damage in the left rear of the accessory section. The engine driven fuel pump displayed more damage than the other accessories. The aluminum housing of the engine driven fuel pump was melted and the center section of the pump had disintegrated. The top half of the pump remained securely attached to the engine. The bottom of the pump fell into the rubble. Molten metal remained on the lower portion of the pump piece that remained attached to the engine. The attachment fittings for the inlet and output fuel lines for the fuel pump were detached and lying in the engine compartment. The inlet line had globules of molten metal on the threads and around the fitting. The output fitting did not have any residue on it; the threads and fitting were clean and undamaged. The 'B' nut on the output fitting was 1 1/4 turns loose. The remaining fuel line 'B' nuts were secure. The fitting was an industrial hardware fitting rather than an aviation fitting, and did not show any evidence of fracture. After removal of the fire sleeve from the flexible fuel lines, no damage or chaffing of the braided material was evident. There was no evidence of any ruptures or other hose failures within the engine compartment. A condition (annual) inspection was completed 1 month 10 hours prior to the accident.

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

The owner's inadequate condition (annual) inspection, which failed to detect a loose fuel pump output line attachment fitting, which resulted in an in-flight fire. A factor in the hard landing and ground loop was the pilot's inability to see through the smoke filling the cockpit.

Full narrative available

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