On July 20, 1994, approximately 1330 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N71RJ, was substantially damaged when it collided with the ground during landing at Moriarity, New Mexico. The airplane, owned by an individual and flown by a private pilot, was on a personal cross country flight. There was a VFR flight plan filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Neither the pilot nor the two passengers were injured.

The airplane was en route from Tucumcari, New Mexico, to Holbrook, Arizona. The pilot stated that after receiving a weather advisory from Albuquerque Flight Watch and observing thunderstorms ahead on his route of flight, he decided to divert to Moriarity. He selected runway 26 after observing the wind sock and subsequently executed standard left traffic for landing.

The pilot said he was on final approach and had just lowered 40 degrees of flaps and the gear, at about 150 feet AGL, when a gust of wind caused the airplane to drift to the right of the runway. He further related that in response, he turned into the wind, applied full power, raised the flaps to 25 degrees, and raised the gear. He stated that even though he was at takeoff power, the airplane continued to sink until it contacted the ground. The airplane came to rest to the right of the runway, about 5,000 feet from the threshold. The pilot reported the winds were from 210 degrees at 7 knots, gusting to 30 knots. Witnesses on the ground confirmed that the winds were gusty. Density altitude for the conditions reported would have been about 9,200 feet.

The wreckage was recovered and the engine subsequently examined by the NTSB and manufacturer's representatives on August 23, 1994. The examination revealed that the alternate air door remained 1/2 open when the cockpit control was placed in the full "closed" position. When the control was moved in the cockpit, the door valve would neither open or close fully.

Examination of the engine revealed two discrepancy areas. These were low compression and evidence of wear on the edges of all of the pistons. Oil blew out of the oil filler neck during the compression tests. All of the pistons exhibited erosion on the heads in the areas above the piston pins. Some aluminum flakes were found in the oil filter. Otherwise, there was no evidence found in the engine of pre-impact failure or malfunction.

During the investigation, it was determined that the airplane had experienced a propeller strike on May 2, 1994, when it went off the runway during landing at Las Vegas, Nevada. The engine was subsequently disassembled and inspected for sudden stoppage damage. It was reassembled, a three blade propeller installed, and returned to service. It was also determined that the airplane had been one of about 1,000 aircraft involved in a series of contaminated fuel incidents in California between May 17, 1994, and June 5, 1994.

The incidents involved 100LL aviation fuel which had been contaminated with Jet-A at the supplier's refinery. The accident airplane had been refueled with the contaminated fuel at Watsonville, California, between May 17 and May 27, 1994. It could not be determined how many hours the airplane had flown after the contaminated fuel was introduced; however, it was determined that it had flown 128 hours since the sudden stoppage inspection. Both the engine manufacturer's and the fuel supplier's representatives indicated that a result of burning the contaminated fuel would have been piston head erosion due to detonation with a ensuing power loss. The amount of the power loss could not be determined. They also indicated that the amount of erosion would have been dependent on the severity of the octane degradation.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page