FTW97LA088
FTW97LA088

On January 23, 1997, approximately 2050 mountain standard time, N76GM, a Beech B90, registered to Fayard Enterprises, Inc., and operated by Mile High Skydiving Center, Inc., was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Longmont, Colorado. The commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the ferry flight conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Vandalia, Illinois, on January 23, 1997, approximately 1800 central standard time.

The following is based on the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report. The pilot said she obtained a standard weather briefing and outlook prior to takeoff. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) were forecast to exist along her route of flight. She departed Louisburg, North Carolina, approximately 1400 eastern standard time. She stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, where a passenger disembarked, then she proceeded to Vandalia, Illinois. While the airplane was being refueled, she obtained another weather forecast. VMC was forecast to continue for the remainder of the flight. The pilot said she had to fly in VMC because there were several inoperative instruments aboard the airplane.

The pilot said the distance between Vandalia, Illinois, and Longmont, Colorado, is 730 nm. Using the winds aloft forecast and a computed 195 knots groundspeed (which she experienced between Louisburg, North Carolina, and Vandalia, Illinois), the pilot estimated her time en route to Longmont to be 3.7 hours. The pilot said she estimated a cruise fuel consumption rate of 250 pounds per hour per engine, based on her previous flight experience in the airplane and a performance chart she submitted. The chart, "Maximum Cruise Power," indicates the engines will consume 507 gallons of fuel per hour at 18,000 feet at -29 degrees F. (-34 degrees C.). According to Freedom Aviation, the airplane was serviced to capacity with 235 gallons of Jet-A fuel. Total fuel capacity of the Beech B90 is 384 gallons, or approximately 2,573 pounds. The pilot said she believed she had sufficient fuel to complete the flight and still have a 45 minute reserve required for night flight. She said she departed Vandalia at 1800 central standard time.

The pilot said that during the first hour of the flight, she flew at 10,500 feet and received flight following services from air route traffic control center (ARTCC). Later, in order to remain in VMC, she was forced to descend to 9,500 feet, then to 7,500 feet. The fuel flow gauges indicated 300 pounds per hour (each engine), and she recalculated fuel consumption and fuel remaining data.

The pilot said she estimated she had consumed 520 pounds during the first hour of flight, leaving 2,053 pounds remaining, or approximately 2.7 hours endurance. Using a fuel burn of 300 pounds per hour per engine, the pilot estimated 1,620 pounds of fuel would be required to complete the flight, leaving 433 pounds reserve.

Weather conditions did not improve and the pilot was unable to climb to a higher altitude. Groundspeed remained between 195 and 200 knots. When the Global Positioning System (GPS) indicated the airplane was 45 minutes from Longmont, the left and then the right fuel transfer pump lights illuminated, indicating that the wing tanks were empty (according to a Beech Aircraft Company spokesman, 262 gallons of fuel had been consumed, leaving 122 gallons or 61 gallons in each nacelle tank). The pilot said that at that time, the nacelle fuel tank gauges registered 3/4-full. If this had had been an accurate indication of fuel remaining, the pilot estimated approximately 450 pounds of fuel would be required for the 150 nm remaining, and that she had adequate fuel to complete the flight.

As the airplane approached Longmont, Denver ARTCC advised that Jeffco Airport (located about 16 miles south of Longmont) was reporting instrument meteorological conditions. [According to the Denver ARTCC, the pilot did not declare an emergency, did not declare a flow fuel state, and did not request priority handling.] The pilot said that when the GPS indicated she was 3 minutes away from Longmont, the left and then the right boost pump failure lights illuminated, followed shortly thereafter by both engines flaming out. The pilot made a wheels up forced landing in the 9500 block of Rogers Road, at its intersection with Hover Road. A spokesman for Beegles Aircraft Service, the salvage company that recovered the wreckage, said they found no fuel on the airplane.

The pilot concluded her report by listing factors that may have contributed to increased fuel consumption and eventual fuel exhaustion, to wit:

1. She was forced to fly the CDI (course deviation indicator) on the GPS because the HSI (horizontal situation indicator) was inoperative (she said it failed in flight and, in addition to the GPS, she referred to the copilot's direction indicator). This resulted in a zigzag course of +5 degrees to +10 degrees.

2. The cabin heater, which normally burns 5 gallons per hour, malfunctioned. The heater would not cycle but burned continuously to the point of overheating. The pilot eventually turned it off.

The pilot said she did not observe the refueling process at Vandalia because she was obtaining a telephone weather briefing from the Flight Service Station. She said the fixed base operator also uses a King Air for parachutists and she felt he knew the proper procedure to follow when refueling the airplane.

Beech Aircraft Corporation was contacted and furnished the facts surrounding the accident. A company spokesman said the performance chart provided to and used by the pilot was the wrong chart. The performance chart was for a Beech 65-A90, not a B90. Although both airplanes use the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-20 engine, the 65-A90 engine is rated at 500 shp (shaft horsepower) at 1,192 foot-pounds of torque, whereas the B90 engine is rated at 550 shp at 1,315 foot-pounds of torque.

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