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On July 9, 1999, about 1815 Pacific daylight time, a Beech A23, N8873M, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, experienced a loss of engine power and collided with the terrain about a quarter mile short of the Swanson Airport, Eatonville, Washington. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged. The private pilot and the pilot-rated passenger in the front seat were seriously injured. The passenger in the rear seat was fatally injured. The flight departed from Arlington, Washington, about one hour and 15 minutes prior to the accident.
During a telephone interview and subsequent written statement, the pilot reported that he does not recall all of the events leading up to the accident. The pilot reported that the aircraft was fueled to the bottom of the visual measuring tab located in the filler neck of each fuel tank at the beginning of the flight. The pilot did not recall if this was done the day before the accident or on the day of the accident. The pilot's brother (right front seat pilot-rated passenger) recalled that the aircraft was fueled at Puyallup, Washington, Pierce Co. - Thun Field prior to the flight. The pilot also recalled that while en route to Arlington, the radio was malfunctioning, and a landing was made at another airstrip to accomplish repairs. After the problem was resolved, the flight then continued to Arlington. No services were required at Arlington, and the flight departed at approximately 1700. The pilot recalled that the flight was uneventful.
The right front seat passenger reported that he does not recall the events leading up to the accident.
A pilot, who was landing ahead of the accident aircraft, stated that he was in radio communication with the pilot of N8873M. The witness heard the pilot of N8873M announce that he was over Northwest Trek (located approximately three miles northwest of the airport) and inbound to Eatonville. The witness radioed the pilot to announce that he was also in the same area. The pilot of N8873M, responded that he was over the north end of Ohop Lake. The witness responded that he had their aircraft in sight and was over the south end of Ohop Lake. The witness thought that N8873M was a high performance aircraft and he asked the pilot if he wanted to go first. The pilot of N8873M, responded "no go ahead." The witness then announced that he was downwind for Eatonville. The witness stated that he made a normal approach and landing to runway 34. As he was flaring for landing, the witness heard the pilot of N8873M announce that he was turning base for Eatonville. The witness stated that as he was turning off the runway onto the taxiway, he looked back and saw N8873M on final approach, low. The witness stated that the aircraft appeared to be in level flight. Just before the witness lost sight of the airplane, the aircraft turned about 25 to 30 degrees right (east) of runway heading and then nosed down.
Two witnesses on the ground reported that the airplane was on final approach to runway 34. One of the witnesses reported that the approach path appeared normal, however, the airplane was too low. This witness did not recall hearing any engine noise.
The other witness, who was outside a daycare center located on Center Street, reported that he saw the aircraft flying extremely low. The witness stated that it (the airplane) was coming toward the Ford Small Engine Repair shop (located on the opposite side of the street and under the approach path for runway 34) when it glided out of view. The witness stated that just before the aircraft disappeared from sight, he heard a noise as though the engine was trying to be started.
Both front seat occupants are pilots. Both pilots hold private pilot certificates for single-engine land aircraft. At the time of the accident, the pilot-in-command, seated in the left seat, had accumulated a total flight time of 450 hours, with 250 hours in the Beech A23. The right seat pilot had accumulated a total flight time of 200 hours, with 1 hour in the Beech A23.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located approximately 1,650 feet short of the approach end to runway 34, and approximately 300 feet east of the runway centerline. The area of the accident site was in a pit that was surrounded by up-sloping terrain. The terrain rose to about 30 feet on all sides. A gravel road allowed entrance to the pit. The airplane was positioned on its belly with all three landing gear collapsed under the airplane. The nose of the airplane was pointing to a magnetic heading of 330 degrees. The airplane came to rest with the nose of the airplane at the top of the approximate 45 degree incline where the gravel road entered the pit.
The airplane remained intact. Both wings remained attached at the wing root. The right wing displayed minor damage at the wing tip. An approximate four-inch tear in the lower wing skin, near the leading edge and about four feet outboard of the root, was noted. There was no evidence of a fuel spill. Approximately 22 ounces of fuel were drained from the right wing fuel tank. Both the flap and aileron remained attached to their respective hinges. The flap was extended to 25 degrees.
The left wing displayed an upward crush along the leading edge, beginning about 54 inches from the wing root and extending to the wing tip. The upper wing skin was wrinkled. There was no evidence of a fuel spill. Approximately 12 gallons of fuel were drained from the left wing fuel tank. The aileron remained attached to its respective hinges and was undamaged. The left main landing gear collapsed rearward. The flap was bowed upward at its mid section. The flap appeared to be fully extended and remained attached at its hinges.
Cockpit documentation noted that the fuel selector was positioned to the left-side fuel tank. The fuel selector placard indicated that 26 gallons of fuel were useable. The placard also recommended use of 15 gallons from the left fuel tank first.
The fuselage was bent slightly to the left at the point near the aft baggage compartment. The horizontal stabilizer with the stabilator attached was also displaced to the left. The tail cone was broken in this area. The vertical stabilizer with the rudder attached was undamaged. Control continuity was established from the cockpit area to the tail, and from the wings to the cockpit area.
Rescue personnel reported that the top of the fuselage was cut in order to extricate the occupants. Prior to cutting the top, the windshield and side windows were intact. Rescue personnel reported that they turned off the battery, alternator and fuel boost switches. No other switches were disturbed. Rescue personnel also removed the two front seats. All four legs on both seats were collapsed. All four seat-track attaching clamps were deformed.
The engine remained attached to the firewall and encased in the cowling. The nose of the engine was positioned downward. Upward and aft crushing was noted to the underside. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft. One half side of the propeller spinner was crushed inward. Propeller blade "A" was undamaged. Propeller blade "B" was bent aft under the engine about 45 degrees. Lengthwise scoring and gouges were noted along the blade back.
The entire aircraft was hoisted onto a flatbed trailer and transported to the Eatonville Airport. The propeller was removed and with the aid of a machine press, propeller blade "B" was straightened. The propeller was reinstalled on the crankshaft in preparation for an engine run. Prior to running the engine, it was noted that the boost pump switch was broken. It was also noted that the throttle lever shaft was broken. The fuel lines were inspected and noted that the fuel injection system, supply line to the fuel pump, and the line from the metering unit to the manifold valve, did not contain fuel. The fuel gascolator did contain fuel. Fuel was introduced to the system via the pump inlet line and into the injector intake ports. Because of the broken throttle lever shaft, the butterfly valve was positioned to the idle setting. After several attempts, the engine started. The engine was run long enough to prove a smooth operation (about ten seconds) then shutdown. While the engine was cranking, the fuel pump gauge indicated two and a half to three PSI. The fuel pump was then removed from the airframe. With the aid of the aircraft battery, power was applied along with a fuel source. The fuel pump functioned, and pumped fuel.
The Beechcraft Pilot's Operating Handbook indicates that the fuel tanks located in each wing have a nominal capacity of 29.9 gallons. In each fuel tank filler neck, a visual measuring tab permits partial filling of the fuel system. When the fuel touches the bottom of the tab, it indicates 15 gallons of fuel. The pilot reported that he had fueled the tanks to the bottom of the tab. The POH also states that a fuel return line from the engine-driven fuel pump returns approximately three to six gallons of fuel per hour to the left tank when the engine is operating at 75% power or less. A caution is indicated to "Use 15 gallons from the left tank first." The section also reports that, "If the engine stops because of insufficient fuel, refer to the EMERGENCY PROCEDURES Section for the Air Start procedures."
The pilot reported that the route of flight was fairly direct and that he remained to the east of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Class B airspace. The total nautical miles for the route of flight beginning at Thun Field, was estimated as 67 miles, with two starts, taxis, and takeoffs prior to landing at Arlington. The return leg from Arlington to Eatonville was estimated as approximately 78 nautical miles. The pilot reported that the duration of flight time was approximately two hours.
The Beechcraft Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) indicates in the Performance section that standard day cruise performance at altitudes between 2,500 feet to 3,500 feet; RPM between 2300 to 2550 and True Airspeed (Kts) between 97 to 116, the fuel flow gallons/hour are between 6.8 to 9.3. Therefore, the flight is estimated to have consumed between 14 to 19 gallons, with 16 to 11 gallons remaining at the completion of the flight. Approximately 12 gallons of fuel was drained from the left fuel tank, while approximately 22 ounces of fuel was drained from the right fuel tank.
The POH indicates under the section entitled Emergency Procedures, that the procedures to follow for an air start are:
1. Fuel selector valve - SELECT TANK MORE NEARLY FULL 2. Throttle - FULL FORWARD 3. Mixture - FULL RICH 4. Fuel Boost Pump - ON until power is regained then OFF 5. Throttle - ADJUST to desired power 6. Mixture - LEAN as required
The fuel selector was found selected to the left fuel tank. The fuel boost pump switch was damaged, and the position could not be determined.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on December 9, 1999. The wreckage was moved to and secured in the owner's hangar at the Eatonville Airport.