On Sunday, April 17, 1994, at 1420 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA22, N9183D, lost total engine power during climb out from runway 26 at the Butler County Airport, Butler, Pennsylvania. During the emergency descent, the airplane struck trees and then made an uncontrolled descent to the ground. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger were seriously injured. The airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The local personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to give the passenger a familiarization flight because he [the passenger] was thinking about buying the airplane. The pilot stated that he overflew the runway to demonstrate "...the characteristics of [the] tailwheel aircraft in the existing quartering headwind." He stated that he overflew the runway and started to climb. He stated that during the left traffic pattern turn.
The pilot stated, "...Within seconds of perceiving the loss of power, I checked the engine controls (throttle, carburetor heat and fuel mixture) and changed from the left fuel tank to the right fuel tank....The engine did not regain power but rather seem to 'sputter' and failed to develop any power....During this second 90-degree turn, from south to east, the situation deteriorated rapidly. I was somewhat distracted by the passenger who had become very excited and repeatedly shouted 'airspeed...airspeed !' I determined that the airspeed was adequate and the aircraft was quite controllable despite the gusty winds and turbulent conditions. I did not determine specifically whether or not [the passenger] had grabbed the controls,but I perceived that the aircraft pitched down and lost substantial altitude during the turn from south to east."
The pilot stated that he did not think the airplane could clear a row of trees that were in front of the airplane's path so he committed to an off-airport landing. The pilot stated, "I was able to arrest the descent of the aircraft with back pressure on the wheel and elected to hit the upper portion of the trees rather than try to force the aircraft over the trees. The pilot stated that he does not remember anything after hitting the trees.
A witness located at the airport stated that "...the engine quit or just completely lost power...they turned south, lost altitude, hit the tress and either spun or cartwheeled through the tress...."
Another witness located at the airport stated, "I heard the plane increase power and shortly thereafter quit. When I saw the plane, it appeared that it had turned and was trying to make it back onto the runway. It looked as if the wind had caught the plane as it continued toward the tress. Its left wing caught the top of a tree, possibly, and proceeded to cartwheel through the rest of the trees."
At the time of the accident, the Butler County Airport's Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) was reporting the wind to be coming from a magnetic bearing of 280 degrees at a velocity of 20 knots, gusting to 29 knots. A significant meteorological report was issued for the eastern Pennsylvania area for moderate to severe turbulence below 10,000 feet mean sea level.
The pilot stated that the person manning the UNICOM frequency stated that the winds for the east-west runway were at a velocity of 10 knots gusting to 15 knots, and a quartering crosswind existed.
Due to the injuries incurred by the passenger, a formal statement has not been made. According to the passenger's spouse, the passenger stated that he knew he was in a airplane accident but could not remember the details. The spouse stated that she asked him if he grabbed the controls at anytime and he stated, "I would never do that because I did not know the airplane and in a crisis situation you leave that up to the pilot."
The airplane wreckage and accident site were examined on April 17 and 18, 1994. Examination of the wreckage revealed no airframe or engine anomalies.
The airplane's fuel system was examined and no anomalies were noted. The left fuel tank contained about eight and one half gallons of fuel and the right fuel tank contained about two and one half gallons. The fuel cup strainer contained about two ounces of fuel and the carburetor fuel bowl contained about one ounce of fuel. The fuel selector valve was selected to the right fuel tank.
According to the airplane's Type Certificate Data Sheet, a placard should be placed, and was located near the right tank fuel gage stating, "No take-off on right tank with less than 1/3 tank." The fuel capacity of the right fuel tank is 18 gallons.