On June 14, 1996, about 1750 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300, N8956N, collided with terrain during a forced landing, about 9 miles north of Gustavus, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country positioning flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. The airplane, registered to and operated by Haines Airways Inc., Haines, Alaska, sustained substantial damage. The certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. VFR company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated at the Skagway airport, Skagway, Alaska, at 1720.

The pilot reported that he landed in Skagway at the end of a tour flight and then departed for Gustavus to pick up two passengers. While in cruise flight at 5,000 feet mean sea level (msl), the pilot indicated that the fuel selector was positioned on the left main fuel tank. The left main fuel tank had contained about 12 gallons of fuel when he departed Skagway. The pilot intended to deplete the fuel in the left main and then switch tanks. He noted a slight loss of fuel pressure and proceeded to switch the fuel selector to the right main tank that contained about 10 gallons. He also turned the electric fuel pump to the "on" position. The fuel pressure went to zero and the engine quit. The pilot then selected the right auxiliary fuel tank but he could not restart the engine. He declared a "mayday" over the airplane's radio and performed an emergency landing in the river bed area of the Excursion River, located in the Glacier Bay National Park, about 2 miles north of the Excursion Inlet.

During the landing on a gravel bar, the right wing struck a small bank and the airplane received damage to the nose gear, propeller, right main landing gear, and the right wing.

On July 19, 1996, the engine and airframe were examined in Haines by an FAA airworthiness inspector from the Juneau Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The inspector reported that the engine was rotated by hand with the aid of a turning bar. The ignition system operated normally. The fuel mixture and throttle controls operated normally. Fuel flow was observed from each fuel tank with the exception of the right wing tip tank that had sustained impact damage. Fuel screens and fuel flow distributors appeared clean. Activation of the electric fuel pump produced fuel to the engine driven pump. Hand rotation of the engine did not produce any fuel flow from the engine driven fuel pump.

The New Piper Aircraft Company supplied fuel flow data from the engine driven pump manufacturer. According to Lear Romec, at 600 RPM and 10 pounds per hour, the minimum fuel flow should be 16 PSI. At 2650 RPM and 360 pounds per hour, the minimum fuel flow should be 22 PSI. On August 5, 1996, the engine driven fuel pump was examined at Sea Air Inc., Anchorage, Alaska. During the test the following was observed:

At 600 RPM and 10 pounds per hour, the flow was measured at 10 PSI. At 2650 RPM and 360 pounds per hour, the flow was measured at 17 PSI.

Fuel was observed leaking from the upper and lower body seals. The screws holding the body together were safety wired, but two screws were loose and two screws had slight tension. The unit was disassembled. No unusual wear was observed. The unit was then reassembled and the external pressure screw was evaluated by turning to see if pressures would increase. It was found that the pressure screw was already at maximum pressure.

The unit was disassembled and the internal relief valve was adjusted to maximum. After reassembly and placed on the flow bench, the relief valve began chattering. During a subsequent test with the relief valve chattering, the following results were obtained:

At 600 RPM and 10 pounds per hour, the flow was measured at 15 PSI. At 2650 RPM and 360 pounds per hour, the mean flow was measured at 22 PSI.

It was noted throughout the test, during the initial phase of the operation and subsequently when the unit was disassembled and retested, that the unit was very difficult to prime.

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