SEA97LA111
SEA97LA111

On May 12, 1997, approximately 1815 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 150M, N7557A, collided with trees during an off-airport emergency landing in an open field near Freeland, Washington. The certified flight instructor and his student received minor injuries, and the aircraft, which was owned and operated by Northway Aviation Club, Inc., sustained substantial damage. The FAR Part 91 instructional flight, which departed Jefferson County International Airport, Port Townsend, Washington, about 20 minutes earlier, was being operated in visual meteorological conditions at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed.

According to the certified flight instructor (CFI), the flight was planned to be from Paine Field, in Everett, Washington, to Jefferson County International Airport in Port Townsend, Washington, and then to return to Paine Field. Prior to the initial departure, the CFI had the student pilot measure the level of fuel in the two wing tanks by dipping them with a homemade wooden measuring stick. Based upon this measurement, which the CFI did not monitor, he estimated that the aircraft would have about 11 gallons of total fuel at the time of the departure from Paine Field. After arriving at Port Townsend, the student pilot performed one touch-and-go and one full-stop landing, and then the return flight to Paine Field was begun. During the return flight, while the student pilot was practicing an emergency descent procedure, the CFI noticed that the engine appeared to be running rough. He therefore applied carburetor heat, and soon thereafter the engine stopped. The aircraft was approximately 1,500 feet AGL when the engine quit, and when the power loss occurred, the CFI took control of the aircraft, and while gliding toward an open field (see photo #1), he attempted to get the engine restarted. He was unable to get the engine to start, and at 600 feet AGL, the CFI gave up on restarting the engine, and concentrated entirely on setting up for the forced landing. During the last part of the approach, the CFI allowed his airspeed and altitude to get too high, and he did not touch down until he had passed over two-thirds of the available landing area in the field. In a post-accident interview, the CFI said, "...my approach was too high and too fast, and I missed my target landing spot." After the aircraft's initial touchdown, it bounced back into the air, and finally settled back onto the ground very near the end of the field. The pilot attempted to stop the aircraft in the remaining distance, but a light rain was falling and the grass was wet, and he was unable to get the aircraft stopped before it collided with trees at the edge of the field.

During a post-accident inspection of the airframe and engine, both magnetos were found to produce a spark on all of their ignition leads, but only one ounce of fuel was found in the carburetor bowl. During this inspection, both wing tanks were drained of fuel, and 1.5 gallons were recovered from the left wing and 2.5 gallons were recovered from the right wing. According to the FAA inspector who went to the site of the accident, there was no indication that any fuel had leaked from the wing tanks onto the ground after the accident. A review of the Pilot's Operating Handbook showed that of the maximum fuel capacity of 26 gallons, 3.5 gallons are not useable. No other pre-impact anomalies that would have kept the engine from running were found.

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