On October 21, 2000, at 1100 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 140, N279W, was substantially damaged when it nosed over in a cornfield following a forced landing in McClure, Pennsylvania. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at the Queen City Municipal Airport (1N9), Allentown, Pennsylvania. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, and destined for the University Park Airport, State College, Pennsylvania. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
In a telephone interview, the pilot said the purpose of the flight was to deliver the airplane to its owner in Oceanside, California. He explained that because the airplane had not been flown for about 2 months, he performed a thorough preflight inspection of the airplane that took approximately 1 hour to complete. The pilot said the fuel gauges indicated full tanks, and that he removed both fuel caps and dipped his fingers in the fuel to verify the level in the tanks. He said that he drew a fuel sample from three points on the airplane and that the sample was clear, and absent of water and debris.
The pilot said the only discrepancy noted was that the airplane's tires were under-inflated.
The pilot said that prior to departing on the first leg of his trip, he took off from Queen City, completed a traffic pattern, and landed the airplane to a full stop. He then departed, climbed to 4,500 feet, and leveled the airplane on a course for State College.
The pilot reported that he was in cruise flight for approximately 1 hour and in the vicinity of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, when the engine stopped producing power. He said:
"I was passing Selinsgrove heading direct to University Park when the power failed - total power failure. There were no landable fields in front of me, so I turned around. I was on the left tank, so I tried the right. I checked the primer, carburetor heat, and the mixture. At the same time, I was setting up for more landable terrain. I was unable to restart the engine."
The pilot said he attempted to set the transponder to 'emergency' and transmitted a 'Mayday' call on the radio during the descent. He said:
"The field I had chosen was probably the only one landable, but it was marginal. It was a fallow field between two cornfields. There were wires at the approach end and trees at the other end. I dropped it in - in a big slip. I could see I was going to run over into the trees so I went diagonally into the corn. There was corn on either side. I went into the corn and was decelerating nicely, but then I must have hit a rut and the plane flipped over."
The pilot stated that, other than the loss of engine power, there were no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane. He added that he escaped injury during the accident because of the dual shoulder harness configuration of his seatbelt.
Examination of fuel records revealed the airplane was last serviced on September 3, 2000, with 9.9 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline. The fuel log stated the airplane was filled "to the tabs." Examination of maintenance records revealed the last maintenance entry was made October 11, 2000, at 910.9 hours on the tachometer.
The tachometer reading at the accident site was 912.4 hours.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector examined the airplane on October 21, 2000. The airplane came to rest inverted, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. In a telephone interview, the inspector said the wings were removed during recovery of the airplane and fuel spilled past the fuel caps.
According to the inspector, the right wing tank contained approximately 9 gallons of fuel and the left wing tank contained 8 ounces of fuel. Continuity of the fuel system was established from the wing roots, through the fuel selector, to the engine. A small tank of fuel was plumbed into the system, and the engine started and ran continuously without interruption for approximately 10 minutes.
In a telephone interview, the airplane's owner said the fuel capacity for each fuel tank was 12.5 gallons, and that the airplane's average fuel consumption rate was 6 gallons per hour.
According to the inspector, examination of the left fuel tank revealed the tank's interior had been sealed with "sloshing sealant." He said the fuel strainer in the left wing was partially occluded with particles of sealant. The inspector said he then flushed the tank and drained a "handful" of particles that were up to 1/2 inch in diameter. He said, "The particles were rubbery and easily stretched."
The airplane was a 1946 Cessna 140. Examination of the airplane's maintenance records revealed a Civil Aeronautics Administration Major Repair and Alteration Form 337 dated April 5, 1957 that documented the use of sloshing sealant in the left fuel tank.
The pilot held a commercial pilot's certificate with ratings for airplane multi-engine land, single engine land, single engine sea, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor's certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, instrument airplane, and glider.
The pilot reported 1,783 hours of flight experience, 107 hours of which were in the Cessna 140. He said he had approximately 60 hours of flight experience in N279W.
The weather in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, at the time of the accident was calm winds and clear skies with 5 miles visibility in haze.