On November 23, 1997, at 1700 central standard time, a Piper PA-32RT-300T airplane, N21433, owned and operated by the pilot, was substantially damaged during a forced landing, following a loss of engine power near Midlothian, Texas. The private pilot sustained minor injuries and the three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal cross country flight, for which no flight plan was filed. The flight had originated from Andrau Airpark Airport, Houston, Texas, at 1545, and was en route to Arlington, Texas.

The pilot reported in a telephone interview and in a written statement that he was descending from 8,500 feet, at 500 fpm. He slowed the descent and "felt the airplane shutter and begin to sound slightly rough." He then observed that the manifold pressure had dropped "slightly," and the fuel flow gauge dropped from "21 to 10 gph." The pilot further reported that he maintained the "slow" descent, turned the boost pump on and switched to a different fuel tank. He then observed an increase in engine manifold pressure, and the fuel flow increased to 15 gph. The pilot stated that smoke entered the cockpit as the airplane descended through 2,500 feet, and he "noticed flames coming from the engine cowling vents." He then turned the fuel pump off, pulled the throttle back and established an 80 knot glide. The pilot further stated that he turned toward Midlothian Airport, but he could not make visual contact with the airport. He executed a forced landing to a grass field, "with some flaps and the gear down." During the landing roll the left wing struck a tree, the airplane went through two fences, across a road and came to rest in a plowed field.

Examination of the airplane by the FAA inspector revealed that the left wing separated from the airplane, and the right wing sustained structural damage. Both main landing gear and the nose gear collapsed, and the engine firewall was structurally damaged. Examination of the engine revealed that the #2 cylinder fuel injector line had broken, and "sprayed fuel onto the turbocharger."

The #2 cylinder fuel injector line was shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Research and Engineering, Materials Laboratory, Washington, D.C., for examination and evaluation. Examination of the fuel injector line revealed that the separation was the result of fatigue cracking that initiated from a damaged area on the line.

The Piper Lance airplane's last annual inspection was completed on September 11, 1997, at a total airframe time of 4,510 hours. According to the airplane maintenance records, Airworthiness Directive 93-02-05, which requires an inspection of the fuel injector fuel lines between the fuel manifold and the fuel injector nozzles, was complied with on September 8, 1997, as part of the annual inspection. When the accident occurred the airplane had flown 39 hours since the annual inspection.

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