NTSB Identification: ERA12LA555
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 09, 2012 in Rawlings, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/12/2013
Aircraft: PITCAIRN PA-4, registration: N3261
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 airplane was climbing through about 150 to 200 feet above ground level after takeoff when the engine lost total power, and the pilot performed a forced landing to a nearby pasture. The airplane descended, impacted the ground, and came to rest on the right side of the fuselage. A postaccident examination of the engine revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operations. The carburetor bowl and fuel lines contained a trace amount of fuel. Upon further examination, debris was discovered in the fuel tank, and large sections of a material were peeling from the fuel tank walls. In addition, there were rusty areas in the fuel tank. The fuel tank outlet did not contain a fuel screen for fuel to travel through when exiting the tank.

Maintenance records indicated that in April 1990, the accident airplane had undergone major repairs and alterations, which included sealing of the fuel tank with a sloshing sealer, use of which was approved at the time. However, in 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration released a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin stating that over time, that sloshing sealer could deteriorate and peel from the internal wall of the fuel tank. Pieces of the sealer could then block the fuel tank outlet, potentially starving the engine of fuel. It was not possible to determine to what extent maintenance personnel examined the fuel tank during the most recent annual inspection, which was completed in September 2012. It is likely that the sloshing sealer compound that was applied to the fuel tank in 1990 had peeled off the inner wall of the fuel tank and blocked the fuel outlet, resulting in fuel starvation of the engine and the subsequent total loss of engine power.

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

A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, which resulted from a fuel outlet in the fuel tank that was blocked by peeled debris from a previously approved fuel tank sealer.

Full narrative available

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