NTSB Identification: LAX01FA113.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 09, 2001 in Essex, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/06/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-300, registration: N1965H
Injuries: 2 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.
The airplane did not return to the departure airport and an ELT signal directed searchers to the wreckage. The airplane had impacted a steep rock face near the top of a 4,900-foot mountain. Witnesses reported that, about the time of the accident, the mountain tops in the area were obscured in clouds above about 4,000 feet. The wreckage showed the airplane had "pancaked" against the side of the mountain while in a 45-degree left bank. Both communication radios were tuned to the emergency frequency. During the wreckage examination, the fuel injection flow divider diaphragm was found to have a tear in it. A tear in the diaphragm during flight would cause the engine to abruptly and completely cease operating. Examination of the diaphragm revealed that the Dacron fabric was not centered in the elastomer as called for in the manufacturer's drawing. The lack of centering in the elastomer led to micro buckling failure of the Dacron fibers due to tensile fatigue.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: Rupture of the fuel injection flow divider diaphragm due to improper manufacture of the raw material stock from which the diaphragm was fabricated. The diaphragm tear resulted in complete engine power loss, which required the pilot to descend into an undercast. The undercast obscured the mountain, which the airplane impacted. A factor in the accident was the manufacturer's inadequate quality control. Full narrative available
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