LAX96LA036
LAX96LA036

On November 2, 1995, at 1450 hours mountain standard time, an Agusta Spa F.260D, N404FD, collided with trees and mountainous terrain during a forced landing after takeoff from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, Grand Canyon, Arizona. The aircraft was destroyed, and the airline transport certificated pilot received serious injuries. The restricted category aircraft was being operated as a ferry flight by Valhalla Aviation, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A VFR flight plan had been filed for the flight which originated from the Grand Canyon around 1440.

The aircraft had taken off from runway 21 and was on initial climb out when the pilot reported to the controller at the airport traffic control tower (ATCT) that the aircraft was losing power and altitude. The aircraft impacted mountainous terrain 2.3 miles southwest of the airport, striking approximately 18 pine trees in the process.

The pilot later reported that on climb out the low pressure fuel light illuminated. When he checked the fuel pressure gauge he noticed it was reading near zero. He switched the fuel selector from the left main tank to the right main tank. Fuel pressure was not restored. The pilot then verified that the fuel boost pump was in the on position. As a last resort he switched the fuel selector to the right tip tank position.

The pilot stated that he had not taken on any fuel after landing at the Grand Canyon Airport. His last refueling stop was at Executive Aviation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On October 26, 1995, the airplane had been ferried from London, England, to the United States.

An inspection of the aircraft revealed its fuel system consisted of five fuel tanks. Recovery personnel reported that the two main tanks each contained 13 gallons of fuel. The two tip tanks each contained about 10 gallons of fuel, and the temporary ferry tank contained 32 gallons of fuel. The fuel shutoff valve was found in the open position. The fuel system was inspected for continuity and obstructions in the lines and vents.

The main fuel system was equipped with a fuel selector that was installed on the aft side of the throttle quadrant. The fuel selector handle was found positioned to the right main tank. The fuel selector was inspected for binding, misalignment, and leaks. The fuel system was also equipped with a suction type electrical fuel boost pump and an engine-driven mechanical fuel pump.

The temporary ferry tank had been installed pursuant to an FAA Form 337, dated October 12, 1995. In pertinent part, the FAA Form 337 listed the following operating limitations: (1) All takeoffs and landings are to be made on the main wing tanks; and (2) The auxiliary fuel system should be used in cruise flight only.

Ferry tank fuel flow was controlled by a tank selector valve which was installed a few inches above the floor and along the right forward side of the cabin. The valve is a two position ball valve which is either closed or open. The ferry tank valve handle was found a few degrees from the fully closed (off) position. The valve assembly did not incorporate a positive detent in either position.

The ferry tank fuel line is independent of the main fuel selector in that suction to the ferry tank line exists whenever the mechanical or electrical fuel pumps are operating. During a further examination of the valve, it was found that the valve would allow air to enter the fuel line if the selector handle was positioned as little as 5 degrees from the full off position. The installed position of the valve places it in close proximity to the right foot of an occupant climbing in or out of the right seat. The pilot in this aircraft flies from the right seat.

In preparation for an engine test run, fuel was temporarily supplied to the engine through the right main fuel line. The electric fuel pump was powered and produced about 6 psi. No leaks were detected during its operation. The engine was then started and ran normally. With the electric fuel pump in the off position, the engine-driven fuel pump sustained a fuel pressure of about 4 psi. The low fuel pressure light was observed to operate during the run. Because of the damaged propeller and resulting vibration, engine speed was limited to 1,200 rpm. No discrepancies were identified during the aircraft inspection and subsequent engine run.

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