On January 19, 1997, at 1645 central standard time, an experimental airplane, a Mahan Starduster II, N45227, operated by a private owner, under Title 14 CFR Part 91, impacted trees and terrain following a loss of engine power near Atlanta, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight and a flight plan was not filed. The commercial pilot/owner received minor injuries, his passenger serious injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated from runway 5 at the Atlanta Municipal Airport at 1630.

During interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge, and on the Pilot/Operator Report, the pilot/owner reported the following information. Approximately 3 miles from the airport, the airplane was climbing through 1,000 feet MSL when the engine power went to idle. The pilot established the airplane at a glide speed of 75 mph and made a turn toward the airport; however, the airplane did not glide to the airport. During the forced landing, the pilot maneuvered the airplane to avoid powerlines and vehicles on the highway. During the landing flare/touchdown to a pasture, the airplane struck a tree before coming to a stop.

The owner/pilot reported that the airplane, built by private individuals, was released to service on December 9, 1996, and issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate by the FAA. By January 10, 1997, the pilot/owner completed the initial 25 hours of test flights. Total time on January 19, 1997, was 32 hours.

Following the accident, the pilot/owner examined the airplane and reported that he "believed on account of engine vibration the clamp to the left (B clamp) loosened and allowed the throttle housing to slide freely. This in turn allowed the carb[uretor] to fall back to the idle position." The gear, flaps, engine crankshaft, and right wing received structural damage.

The throttle cable was examined and removed under the surveillance of the FAA inspector for a closer inspection. After the removal, while holding the cable housing and pulling the cable, it was discovered that a cable break was located where the cable was swaged to the control rod at the cockpit end of the cable. The FAA inspector "concluded that the malfunction which caused the power loss was due to the failure of the engine throttle control cable." The reason for the failure of the cable is unknown; however, the individual cable wires "appear to have been twisted prior to breakage which would indicate improper handling or installation."

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