On June 8, 2000, at 2235 Eastern Daylight Time, a Beech BE-55, N777K, was destroyed during a forced landing while on approach to Erie International Airport (ERI), Erie, Pennsylvania. The certificated commercial pilot/co-owner sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated at Dunkirk, New York, approximately 2210. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
In a telephone interview, the pilot said:
"The flight originated earlier in the day at Erie with full fuel. I flew to Dunkirk, New York, then continued on to Concord, North Carolina, where I attended a funeral. I returned to Dunkirk later that day, dropped off a passenger, and continued to my final destination of Erie. In Dunkirk, I was asked if I needed any servicing, and declined the offer. I did not visually check the fuel level in either tank. When I started the airplane, I noted that the left fuel indicator was between the top of the "empty" white arc and a 1/4 tank. The right fuel indicator was between 1/4 and 1/2. The trip to Erie was approximately 25 minutes. As I got closer to Erie, I scanned my instruments and noted the left fuel indicator was in the white arc, and I mentally prepared for what I should do if the left engine stopped running. I had the airport in sight, [and] was straight and level at 3,200 feet. I then turned on the dome light and looked at the fuel selector handles. I made a decision to turn the right fuel selector handle one turn to the left in an attempt to cross-feed the fuel from the right tank to both engines. That is all I did. I got a bad feeling and do not remember exactly what happened after that. I thought I put all of the controls full forward, but cannot remember. I clipped the top of a tree around 40 mph. The landing felt like a normal landing. I do not know what happened, and do not recall if the engines ever stopped producing power. I never lost consciousness and was able to exit the airplane on my own."
A witness in his home heard the airplane. According to his written statement, he said:
"About 10:30-10:45, I heard a 'wooping' sound. I went outside a few seconds later. When I was outside, there was a big explosion and I ran inside my house to get my son and called 911."
According to the ERI air traffic control incident report, the airplane was cleared to land on Runway 24. While on final approach, the pilot reported an emergency and advised that he was not going to make the airport. The controller queried the pilot to the nature of the emergency, and offered assistance.
Two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors performed an on-scene examination on June 9, 2000. According to one of the inspector's written report, the airplane, almost entirely consumed by the post-crash fire, was situated between two storage type buildings about 2 miles from the approach end of Runway 24. The empennage laid between the two buildings in an approximate 45-degree nose-down attitude and faced approximately 180 degrees. The aircraft's initial impact heading was 240 degrees. Because of the post-impact fire, positions of flight controls and switch settings could not be determined. The fire also rendered it impossible to verify instrument readings.
An FAA inspector performed an engine examination on June 9-10, 2000. The examination revealed there were no mechanical deficiencies with either engine.
According to the Beech BE-55 Baron FAA approved Pilot Operating Manual, section 7-24 addressed the following in reference to the Fuel Cross-Feed system:
"The fuel lines for the engines are interconnected by cross-feed lines. During normal operation, each engine uses its own fuel pumps to draw fuel from its respective wing fuel system. However, on emergency cross-feed operations either engine can consume the available fuel from the opposite side. The fuel cross-feed system is provided for use during emergency conditions. The system cannot be used to transfer fuel from one wing system to the other. The procedure for using the cross-feed system is described in the EMERGENCY PROCEDURES section."
On page 3-10 of the EMERGENCY PROCEDURES section it stated, "the fuel cross-feed system is to be used during emergency conditions in level flight only."
The manual only addressed the procedures to cross-feed when one of the engines is inoperative. There were no procedures that addressed the issue of cross-feeding fuel from one tank to both engines.
According to the fuel selector placard, if the right fuel selector handle was turned one click to the left, the selector valve would be in the cross-feed mode. This cross-feed mode would allow fuel from the left tank to cross-feed to the right engine.
Another fuel placard was inscribed between the fuel selector handles. The inscription said, "Do not take-off if fuel quantity indication gauges indicate in yellow arc or with less than 13 gallons in each wing system."
The pilot reported a total of 900 hours; 500 hours in make and model, of which 25 hours were in the last 90 days.
According to the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report form, the pilot made a recommendation as to how the accident could have been prevented. He stated:
"One thing I could have done after all power [was] forward, was to put the gear back up and I may have made the field."