On October 23, 1999, at 1305 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N616FT, registered to and operated by the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), collided with a parked truck while attempting an emergency landing on Alternate Highway 27 north of Lake Wales, Florida. The flight was being conducted by the private pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a VFR flight plan was filed. The pilot was not injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated from Lake Wales Municipal Airport in Lake Wales, Florida, at 1255, with an intended destination of Melbourne, Florida.

According to the pilot, after he performed a touch and go landing on runway 24 at Lake Wales, he initiated a right turn toward the north. He leveled off in cruise flight at an altitude of 2,500 feet above mean sea level (msl). Shortly thereafter, the engine began to "run rough." He enriched the fuel mixture but no change in engine performance was noted. The pilot declared an emergency and attempted to divert to a private airstrip located south of his position. According to FIT's Director of Operations, the pilot "was more concerned with finding the strip than performing the emergency checklist, thus no carb[uretor] heat [was] applied." Realizing that he did not have sufficient altitude to glide to the airstrip, he decided to land on the highway. During the landing rollout, the right wing of the airplane struck a flag pole, a road information sign, and the side of a tractor trailer. The aircraft came to rest south of the tractor trailer facing west.

An on-scene investigation was conducted by an FAA inspector following the accident. The engine was started and ran at all power settings, and no mechanical discrepancies were found. According to reported weather conditions at Bartow, Florida, the closest weather facility located nine nautical miles west of the accident site, the temperature and dew point were 77 and 61 degrees F., respectively (see attached icing probability curve). Conditions at the time were favorable for the formation of carburetor icing.

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