CHI98LA076
CHI98LA076

On December 31, 1997, at 1419 central standard time (cst), a Beech 35-33, N627V, operated by a private pilot collided with the terrain during a forced landing on the median of Interstate 64 in Chesterfield, Missouri. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was on approach to land at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, when the power loss occurred. The flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The pilot, pilot-rated passenger, and other passenger were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The local flight departed Macon, Missouri, at 1330 cst.

Several witnesses on the ground verified that the airplane was heading westbound in a shallow descent. One witness said that the engine was not running, and the airplane was descending in steps. The witness said the airplane turned so that its wings were straight up and down. The airplane then rolled so that the wings were no longer sideways, but the right wing was lower. The airplane then struck in the median.

Another witness recalled seeing the airplane in a right bank and then it made a very abrupt turn. She said that the airplane's nose went straight down and that there was little forward movement.

A third witness said that he observed the airplane "in a very steep angle." He said that as the airplane came close to the ground, it was in a right bank and lined up perfectly with the median. The witness said that almost immediately, the airplane struck the ground with its right wing and right landing gear at the same time.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the wreckage at the accident site. The airplane was resting in the median between the east-west running lanes of Interstate 64, approximately 1 mile east of the airport. The right side of the engine cowling was crushed inward. The right side engine mounts and firewall were bent aft and to the left. The bottom metal skin of forward fuselage, aft to the wings, showed severe buckling. The right side of the cabin was broken open. The top of the airplane's cabin was broken aft. The windscreen and cabin windows were broken out. The throwover yoke favored the right seat. The outboard right wing was bent upward and curled inward at the wing tip. The bottom wing skin was crushed upward and the right main fuel tank was broken open. The right main landing gear was bent aft underneath the wing. The fuselage, aft of the cabin to the empennage, was twisted and bent over to the left. The propeller was broken off at the crankshaft just aft of the flange. There was minor damage to the propeller. Flight control continuity was confirmed. Approximately 20 gallons of fuel were observed in the left main and right auxiliary fuel tanks. No evidence of fuel was found in the flow divider to the fuel injectors. The fuel selector was observed in the "OFF" position. Examination of the engine, remaining engine controls, and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

Two witness, who were first to arrive at the accident scene, told the Missouri State Police that they had spoken to the pilot before he was taken to the hospital. They said that the pilot stated that the accident was his fault because he forgot to switch fuel tanks and ran out of gas.

The pilot was admitted to St. John's Mercy Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri, following the accident where he remained in the intensive care unit with severe injuries for five weeks. An FAA inspector interviewed the pilot on March 6, 1998. In the interview the pilot stated that the fuel selector was positioned on the left main fuel tank when they departed Macon, Missouri. While en route to Spirit of St. Louis Airport, the pilot said that he switched the fuel selector to the auxiliary tank. When the airplane was on the downwind leg in the traffic pattern at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, the pilot switched the fuel selector to the left main tank again. When the pilot was turning onto base leg, the engine lost power. The pilot said that he flew the airplane "as far as he could," then gave up.

The pilot-rated passenger was admitted to St. John's Mercy Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri, following the accident where he was treated for serious injuries. He was released on January 6, 1998. The pilot-rated passenger was interviewed by an FAA inspector on January 21, 1998. He stated that the last thing he remembered was being over the Missouri River. The pilot-rated passenger said that he did not see the pilot touch the fuel selector valve in preparation for landing at Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

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