On July 6, 1993, about 1410 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA28- 181, N3837N, collided with telephone wires and terrain during ago around following a loss of power at the Columbia Airport, Columbia, California. According to witness observations, the sounds of engine power ceased prior to the aircraft descending into the telephone wires east of the airport. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross country flight and a VFR flight plan had been filed. The airplane was substantially damaged during the collision sequence. The pilot and his passenger received serious injuries. The flight originated at Brackett Field, La Verne, California, on the day of the accident about 1130 hours. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
Witnesses observed the aircraft make what was described as a high and long approach to runway 17. The aircraft was observed to initiate a go around. As the engine powered up for the go around, a brief period of black smoke was observed. During the initial climb phase of the go around, witnesses heard the engine quit. The aircraft began a left descending turn and contacted telephone wires and terrain.
FAA inspectors from Fresno, California, Flight Standards District Office responded to the accident site and examined the aircraft. According to documents obtained at the accident site, the airplane had flown a total of three hours from La Verne to Columbia. The inspectors reported finding the master switch, magneto switches, fuel pump switch, and the beacon switch in the on position. They further noted that the fuel selector was on the left fuel tank.
Examination of the fuel tanks revealed that the right tank had been cut open by wires and was empty. The left wing was severed from the fuselage at the wing root with additional damage to the tank leading edge and inboard end. The left tank was also empty of fuel. The inspectors stated that there were signs of fuel spillage on the asphalt road but they could not quantify the amount. A preliminary examination of the engine spark plugs, oil filter, and other components was conducted on scene by the inspectors, with no discrepancies noted.
Additional testing of the engine and fuel system components was conducted at the Columbia Airport by an FAA approved repair station. The wreckage was removed to a storage area in Sacramento, California, where, with minor repairs to the installation, the engine was started and successfully run.
The pilot documented his preflight planning and preparation for the flight in his written statement. According to his calculations and a similar set prepared by the Safety Board, the aircraft should have had an excess of two hours of fuel remaining at the destination airport. He further states that he switched fuel tanks twice during the flight, both at one hour intervals.
The pilot stated that he began a slow descent to Columbia Airport pattern altitude. Enroute to the airport, he monitored the recorded weather information and contacted the UNICOM radio for advisories. The UNICOM operator advised that runway 17 was preferred according to the pilot. According to the pilot, as he turned final approach he realized that he was too high to land and decided to go around. The pilot applied full throttle and when he achieved a positive rate of climb he retracted the flaps. Then, while still on the upwind, the engine sputtered once and then one to two seconds later, it sputtered again. The pilot said that at that point the aircraft started to descend and collided with power lines.
The nearest weather recording facilities were found to be U.S. Forestry Service sites. Comparing the temperatures and the dew points from two sites to the carburetor icing probability chart produced a light icing probability at glide or cruise power.