On May 30, 2000, at 1859 Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA-28-161, N4319U, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Williamstown, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot and two passengers received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he had departed Berlin, New Jersey (19N), and was en route to Atlantic City, New Jersey, cruising at 2,000 feet. He further stated:

"...I noticed the annunciator panel oil light 'flicker' for a few seconds, and then it was steadily on...I then proceeded to make a standard rate left 180 degree turn back to 19N. Before I could finish the '180', the plane shook...[descending] below 1,000 feet, the shaking subsided greatly...just before landing, clipped a fiber-optic wire with my right wing and part of the right side other main gear wheel. This caused me to abruptly spin 180 degrees to the right and I was still flying down to the grass...."

According to an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a small post-crash fire developed in the engine compartment, which was subsequently extinguished. Examination of the airplane revealed the right wing was bent upward about 70 degrees, the left wing was opened to the spar, and the underside of the fuselage was bent. In addition, the landing gear was separated from the airplane.

The FAA inspector further reported the left side drain plug on the engine sump had been removed and replaced with a quick drain plug. Examination of the engine revealed that the quick drain plug was missing. The quick drain plug was not found in the engine cowling, or area surrounding the airplane. The safety wire hole adjacent to the quick drain plug hole was void of safety wire.

According the Manager of Accident Investigation for Lycoming, their records indicated the engine had been overhauled by Textron Lycoming, and was delivered with two threaded drain plugs, one on each side of the sump. Quick drains were not installed.

According to records supplied by the FAA, the engine was installed in the airplane on May 5, 2000, and on May 10, 2000, after the engine had accumulated 20 flight hours, an oil change was conducted. At the time of the accident, the engine had accumulated 52 hours since the oil change and 72 hours since overhaul.

In addition, the FAA inspector reported there was no entry in the maintenance records for the installation of the quick drain plug.

The mechanic who owned the airplane and performed the engine installation declined to answer any questions about the quick drain plug.

The mechanic who performed the oil change confirmed that a quick drain plug was installed, but reported he was unaware of who installed it. He reported that when he performed the oil change, he did not remove the engine cowling. He had reached inside the cowling and opened the quick drain by pushing up and twisting. After the oil was drained, he returned the quick drain to the locked position, and filled the engine with oil. He said the quick drain plug was tight, and he did not notice if it was secured with safety wire.

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