On November 28, 1999, at 0936 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper PA-28-140, N7407J, was destroyed during a forced landing and post crash fire after takeoff from the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport (OLE), Olean, New York. The certificated private pilot and passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at OLE, approximately 0930. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot provided both a telephone interview and a written statement. He said the purpose of the flight was to return to his home airport in Dover, Delaware, after a visit in Olean. The pilot said the fuel tanks were filled the night before the flight, and the airplane was parked in a hangar overnight.
The pilot said he completed a pre-flight inspection of the airplane by the checklist. He said he drained fuel from the sumps during the preflight inspection and that the fuel was absent of contamination. The pilot said he visually checked both the fuel and oil quantities.
The pilot said he pushed the airplane out of the hangar for engine start. He completed the engine run-up by the checklist and departed from runway 22. According to the pilot:
"The take off roll was normal and the airplane climbed very well. The engine sounded excellent throughout the takeoff and initial climb. While climbing I let off of the right rudder just enough to do a slight skidding left turn towards my intended heading of 150... I was approximately 3 to 4 miles from the airport and just coming onto my heading of 150 and continuing my climb when the engine began to spit and sputter irregularly. I had been airborne for about 2 to 3 minutes when this problem developed. I'm unsure what my altitude was at that point but I believe I was between 3,000 and 3,400-ft. msl, approximately 1,000 feet above airport level. I began a slight right turn with the anticipation that I might have to return to the airport and began looking for the problem."
The pilot said he confirmed the position of the fuel selector, the mixture, and the primer. He said he tried the left and right magneto and switched back to the 'Both' position. After application of carburetor heat for 8-10 seconds, the pilot pushed the carburetor heat control back to the cold position.
The pilot said that the engine RPM decreased to approximately 2,000 RPM, but the power output felt "...as if I was only generating the power I would have at 1,500 rpm's." He said that while troubleshooting, switching magnetos and application of carburetor heat only cost him engine RPM so he decided to turn the carburetor heat off and the magneto switch back to "Both".
The pilot reported that he was approximately 1.5 miles from the airport and had descended to approximately airport elevation (2,135 feet) when he applied carburetor heat. He said he felt a return to the airport was not possible at this point and he selected a forced landing area.
The pilot attempted a forced landing to a field approximately 800 feet long. He said the plane touched down approximately 100 miles per hour and bounced back into the air. The airplane struck a pole, a guardrail, nosed over, and crossed a roadway on its roof. The airplane came to rest inverted in a drainage ditch. There was a small post-crash fire.
The wreckage was moved to the Olean Airport and examination of the wreckage was performed under the supervision of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspectors on December 1, 1999. The airplane was stored outdoors, inverted, and exposed to the elements prior to examination.
The propeller blades displayed similar bending and chordwise scratching. The engine could be rotated by hand and continuity was established through the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section. The spark plug electrodes were intact and light tan and gray in color. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method. The right magneto was destroyed. The left magneto produced spark at all distributor towers.
Examination of the auxiliary fuel pump revealed ice in the filter area. The pump was thawed to room temperature and approximately 1 ounce of water was drained. Removal of the engine-driven fuel pump revealed water in the inlet and outlet sections. Disassembly of the pump revealed water in the pump diaphragm area.
The carburetor was removed and disassembled. No fuel, water, or debris was observed. No mechanical deficiencies were noted.
Both the pilot and the passenger reported the preflight inspection was completed in approximately 5 minutes.
The pilot reported 66 hours of flight experience, 13 hours of which were in make and model.
Weather reported at the Bradford Regional Airport, 30 miles southwest of Olean, was a broken cloud layer at 2,900 feet with winds from 280 degrees at 10 knots. The temperature was 34 degrees and the dewpoint was 27 degrees.