NTSB Identification: SEA00LA018.
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Accident occurred Saturday, November 13, 1999 in MALHEUR CITY, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/17/2001
Aircraft: Piper PA18, registration: N82553
Injuries: 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.

For about two months prior to the accident, the aircraft's electrical system had been operating improperly and failing to charge the battery. Although two maintenance shops had attempted to correct the problem, as of the date of the accident, the system was still not functioning correctly. During this two-month period, the pilot had continued to operate the aircraft, turning on the master switch only during engine start and for brief periods of radio transmission. On the day of the accident, he turned on the master switch to start the engine, and then not realizing that he had not turned it off, headed for his destination. About 10 minutes after takeoff, the pilot smelled what he thought was either smoke or fumes from a malfunctioning heater, and elected to make a precautionary landing. While attempting to land in an open area near a county road, the aircraft collided with a power line that the pilot was trying to go under in order to get to the point where he wanted to touch down. After hitting the power line, and with the fumes getting stronger, the pilot tried to get the aircraft on the ground as quickly as possible. As a result, the aircraft touched down at an excessive descent rate, and both main gear collapsed. Immediately after exiting the aircraft, the pilot noticed a small fire in the right wing root. He elected not to approach the aircraft to attempt to put out the fire, and it was eventually consumed by the flames.

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

The pilot's excessive descent rate during an attempted precautionary landing. Factors include the pilot's intentional operation of his aircraft with a known electrical system deficiency, a malfunction of the electrical system while in flight, the pilot's failure to maintain clearance from an electrical transmission line while attempting a precautionary landing, and rough terrain conditions at the location where the landing was attempted.

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