NTSB Identification: DEN91FA065.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 44985.
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 01, 1991 in BENNETT, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/02/1992
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31B-310, registration: N7407L
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

SHORTLY AFTER TAKEOFF, WHILE CLIMBING TO CRUISE ALTITUDE, THE PILOT REPORTED THE LEFT ENGINE COWL ASSEMBLY HAD COME OFF. WITNESSES OBSERVED THE AIRPLANE AT LOW ALTITUDE & NOTED THAT IT WAS 'YAWING, SPUTTERING, AND ROCKING BACK AND FORTH.' THEY INDICATED THE LEFT ENGINE WAS NOT RUNNING & THAT THE AIRPLANE BANKED SHARPLY TO THE RIGHT & DISAPPEARED BEHIND TREES BEFORE CRASHING. AN INVESTIGATION REVEALED THE LEFT PROPELLER HAD NOT BEEN FEATHERED. THE LEFT ENGINE COWLING WAS FOUND 1.8 MILES FROM THE ACCIDENT SITE. THE THREE PRIMARY (EYEBOLT) COWL FASTERERS ON THE OUTBOARD SIDE OF THE LEFT UPPER COWL WERE FOUND UNLOCKED & SEVEN OTHER COWL ATTACHING STUDS (SCREWS) WERE MISSING. THE COWLING HAD BEEN REMOVED 16 DAYS BEFORE THE ACCIDENT TO INSTALL AN OIL/AIR SEPARATOR. THIS WAS THE FIRST FLIGHT SINCE THAT WORK WAS PERFORMED. THE MECHANIC, WHO DID THE WORK, SAID HE NOTED SEVERAL COWL STUD FASTENERS WERE MISSING & THAT HE HAD NOTIFIED THE PILOT. THE PILOT WAS REPORTED TO HAVE REPLIED THAT HE HAD SOME FASTENERS & WOULD TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM.

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

IN-FLIGHT SEPARATION OF THE LEFT ENGINE COWL ASSEMBLY THAT WAS NOT PROPERLY LATCHED, AND FAILURE OF THE PILOT TO MAINTAIN MINIMUM CONTROL SPEED, WHICH RESULTED IN HIS LOSS OF AIRCRAFT CONTROL. FACTORS RELATED TO THE ACCIDENT WERE: AN INADEQUATE PREFLIGHT INSPECTION, INADEQUATE MARKINGS/ALIGNMENT INDICATIONS TO ASSURE THAT THE COWL FASTENERS WERE LOCKED, AND AN INSUFFICIENTLY DEFINED PROCEDURE IN THE FLIGHT MANUAL FOR CHECKING THE COWL FASTENERS.

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