On September 9, 2000, at 1330 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 120, N76261, experienced a loss of power on the takeoff initial climb out from Sacramento Executive Airport, Sacramento, California, and made a forced landing on a golf course. The airplane, owned and operated by the pilot under 14 CFR Part 91, sustained substantial damage. The commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions existed for the personal flight that was departing at the time of the accident. The flight was scheduled to terminate at the Madera Municipal Airport, Madera, California. No flight plan had been filed. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
A witness to the accident stated that he heard the engine sputtering and saw the airplane turn back toward the runway. A compilation of witnesses saw the airplane land nose first and then bounce back to rest on its main landing gear.
The pilot stated that he refueled the airplane the night prior to the accident at Madera airport. He visually verified that the fuel tanks had been "topped" off. The airplane was then placed in and locked in its hangar for the night. The next morning the pilot removed the airplane from the hangar, conducted a preflight, and departed for Sacramento airport at 0800. He flew for 1 hour 8 minutes to his final destination. The pilot stated that he flew the airplane on the right fuel tank. After landing, he secured the airplane and attended the Golden Valley Air Show.
At 1305, the pilot returned to his airplane to return to home base. He performed a preflight and visually verified that the right tank was half full. He then selected the left tank, the fullest tank for takeoff. Four airplanes were in front of him when he started his taxi to the active runway. The tower announced that the airport would be closed for 5 minutes for an aircraft demonstration. After the demonstration the airport was reopened, and he was cleared for takeoff about 4 minutes later.
The pilot made an intersection takeoff from runway 16 and runway 20. He reported that at the departure end of runway 20, about 350 agl, the engine rpm's dropped. He suspected carburetor icing and applied carburetor heat, and verified the fullest fuel tank was selected. He noted that the engine continued to lose power. He declared an emergency, switched to the right fuel tank, and pushed in the carburetor heat.
The pilot indicated that the airplane continued to lose altitude and power. He started a left turn to make an emergency landing due to unsuitable terrain in front of him. He realized that he would not be able to complete the turn back to the runway. He observed a golf course in front of him and it was his intent to place the airplane between two trees to dissipate energy upon landing. At the last moment he saw a golf cart pull up into the opening between the trees. He maneuvered to "stall the aircraft in[to] [the] tops of the trees to avoid the golf cart." After he reduced the power he felt the first impact with the trees and then a "very violent impact." Bystanders removed him from the airplane.
The airplane was inspected on-scene by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The inspector found fuel in the left wing tank, and on the ground underneath the right wing. He stated that the fuel selector valve was in the off position, but that one of the responders to the accident had turned it to the off position.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A FAA inspector supervised an engine inspection at Clarksburg Air Repair, Sacramento. The external examination of the airplane and engine revealed the carburetor heat control cable rod end retainer bolt washer was improperly installed. This allowed the bolt to slide in an out of the control arm. The mixture control cable rod end retainer bolt was loose at the control arm with about 1 1/4-inch gap between the rod end tapper and control arm.
Mechanical continuity was established throughout the engine. A cold differential compression check was completed, with accessory gear and valve train continuity established. When the lower spark plugs were removed, they were soaked in oil.
It was noted that the fuel selector had fuel stains on the left tank position where it appeared to have been seeping through. The fuel selector was stiff to move. The fuel selector was bench tested with no discrepancies noted. Repair personnel further noted that that the main discharge nozzle was leaking and stained.
According to the FAA inspector, the carburetor was inspected on October 5, 2000, at Accessories Connection in Somerset, California. The carburetor was found in noncompliance with Airworthiness Directive number 96-09-06. It was further noted that the composite float exhibited previous water damage. No further discrepancies were noted.
According to the Carburetor Icing Chart from Transport Canada, conditions were conducive to moderate icing - cruise power or serious icing - descent power (chart appended to report).