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On August 23, 2001, at 1840 eastern daylight time, a Navion L-17B, N1017B, owned and piloted by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage during an in-flight collision with trees and terrain near Newaygo, Michigan. The aircraft was executing a forced landing subsequent to a loss of engine power during cruise flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 and was not on a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed the Lakeview Airport (13C), Lakeview, Michigan, at an unconfirmed time, and was en route to Fremont Municipal Airport (3FM), Fremont, Michigan.
According to a Michigan State Police incident report, witnesses near the accident location reported the aircraft was experiencing engine difficulties prior to and during the collision with the trees and terrain. The incident report included several witness reports, included below:
The incident report states a witness reported, "He heard the engine running and then it suddenly cut out. He heard the engine start back up and then cut out again. He watched as the airplane was losing altitude and getting closer to the tree tops. He said that the airplane disappeared in the woods and heard a loud crash."
The incident report states another witness reported, "He said they were outside and heard an airplane flying overhead. It sounded like the plane was having engine trouble. [The witness] heard the engine stop while the plane was in flight. He the engine started back up and stopped again. He said that the plane was gliding and losing altitude at this point. He watched the plane get closer to the tree tops and then disappear in the woods. He heard a loud crash as the plane hit the trees. [The witness] said there was another airplane in the air at the time of the crash. It looked as though the two [airplanes] were traveling together."
The incident report states another witness reported, "He told me he was at his residence when he heard an airplane flying over. He said the plane was traveling westbound. He [the witness] heard the engine shut off as it was flying. He told me [the reporting officer] he heard the engine start back up. He told me [the reporting officer] he believes the engine stopped and restarted three times. He went on to say that he saw the airplane losing altitude and then disappeared from his line of sight."
The pilot of the accompanying airplane reported he and the pilot of the accident airplane had flown together to 13C in-order to retrieve the accident airplane following an annual inspection on the accident airplane. The pilot stated he and the accident pilot were en route to 3FM when the accident pilot reported over the radio that he was experiencing engine difficulties. The pilot reported he instructed the accident pilot to complete his emergency engine restart procedures. The pilot stated the accident pilot was able to restart the engine but the engine subsequently lost power again. The pilot reported the airplane lost altitude, impacting the trees and terrain.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. FAA records show the pilot's last medical examination was completed on December 21, 1999, and the pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate with the restriction "Holder shall wear corrective lenses while exercising the privileges of his airman certificate."
The pilot's flight records were reviewed and total flight times were calculated as of the last logbook entry, dated July 19, 2001. The pilot had a total time of 699.2 hours, of which 698.2 hours were in single-engine airplanes. The pilot had accumulated 587.7 hours as pilot-in-command.
The flight records show the pilot had flown 12.4 hours during the past year, all of which were in the accident airplane. The pilot had flown 6.0 hours during the last 6 months, 2.0 hours during the last 3 months, and no flight time was logged during the last 30 days.
The pilot's first flight in the accident airplane was on July 19, 2000, and he had accumulated 22.6 hours in the Navion L-17B as of the last logbook entry.
The pilot's last flight review, as required by Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 61.56, was completed on July 19, 2001, in the accident airplane. The pilot received a complex airplane endorsement on June 20, 1998, and a high performance endorsement on July 19, 2001.
The aircraft was a Navion L-17B, serial number NAV-4-1668. The Navion L-17B is a single-engine all-metal airplane of semimonocoque design and is equipped with a retractable landing gear, wing flaps and a constant speed propeller. The L-17B can accommodate four occupants, which includes two pilot stations.
The airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on October 24, 1960, and was certified for normal and utility category operations. At the time of the accident the airframe had accumulated a total flight time of 1,281.66 hours.
The last annual inspection was performed on August 18, 2001, at 1281.0 hours total time, and the airplane had accumulated 0.66 hours since the inspection. According to the airframe logbook, all applicable airframe airworthiness directives (AD) were complied with at the last annual inspection. A copy of the logbook entry for the last airframe annual inspection is available in the public docket associated with this factual report.
The engine was a 205 horsepower Continental O-470-7B, serial number 6038-0-17B. The engine had accumulated 874.0 hours since the last major overhaul, which was completed in 1965. The engine had accumulated 0.66 hours since the last annual inspection, which was completed on August 18, 2001. A copy of the logbook entry for the last engine annual inspection is available in the public docket associated with this factual report.
The propeller was a two-bladed Hartzell HC-12V20-7E, serial number P288. The blade serial numbers were J36683 and J36680.
A weather observation station, located at Roben-Hood Airport (RQB), Big Rapids, Michigan, about 18.9 nautical miles (nm) from the accident site on a 034 degree magnetic heading, recorded the weather approximately 4 minutes prior to the accident as:
Observation Time: 1836 edt
Wind: 010 degrees magnetic at 4 knots
Visibility: 10 statute miles
Sky Condition: Sky Clear
Temperature: 28 degrees Celsius
Dew Point: 16 degrees Celsius
Pressure: 30.05 inches of mercury
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on-scene investigation began on August 24, 2001.
The wreckage was located in a heavily wooded area. A GPS receiver recorded the position of the main wreckage as 43-degrees 27-minutes 05.40-seconds north latitude, 85-degrees 43-minutes 27.84-seconds west longitude. All major airframe components were located at the accident site.
The aircraft came to rest in an upright, nose-down position. The wreckage path was orientated on a 175 degree magnetic heading. There were several broken trees along the wreckage path. The descent path angle through the trees was about 25 degrees and the debris path was approximately 40 feet long.
The empennage components and both wings remained attached to the fuselage structure. Flight control continuity was established from the individual flight control surfaces to their respective cockpit controls. The landing gear position selector was in the gear-down position. The nose gear was collapsed in the aft direction and the left main gear was collapsed in the inboard direction. The right main gear was in the down-and-locked position. The wing flaps were fully extended and the flap position selector was in the flaps-extended position.
The throttle control was in the idle position, the mixture control was in the full-rich position, the propeller control was in the low-pitch position, and carburetor heat was not selected. Engine control continuity was established from the individual input controls to their respective engine component. According to first responders, the magneto switch was selected to "both" prior to the removal of the ignition key.
The fuel selector, located on the fuselage floor between the two pilot seats, was found approximately halfway between the "AUX" and "OFF" positions. The electrical fuel pump switch was in the "ON" position. The manual fuel primer was in the stowed position.
The airplane was equipped with two main fuel tanks, which are joined together by a common accumulator tank. The both fuel tanks are refueled via a common fueling port located on the upper right wing. Approximately 12 gallons of fuel was drained from the main fuel system. The fuel collected was red in color and was free of particulate and water contamination. The remaining fuel in the main tanks was not collected and its quantity could not be accurately measured. The airplane was equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank and system. There was fuel present in the auxiliary fuel tank, but the quantity of fuel could not be accurately measured.
The fuel supply line, forward of the firewall, was disconnected and no fuel drained from the line.
The aircraft battery was reinstalled to test the operation of the electric fuel pump. At first the electrical fuel pump did not operate, however after further investigation the circuit breaker for the fuel pump was found in the tripped position. After resetting the circuit breaker the electric fuel operated, however fuel delivery was limited and sporadic with the fuel selector position as found. With the fuel selector positioned on "AUX" or "MAIN" the fuel delivery increased significantly and remained constant. There was no fuel flow with the fuel selector positioned on "OFF." The fuel selector was repositioned in-between "AUX" and "OFF" and fuel delivery was again limited and sporadic.
The engine was impacted aft into the firewall and the two forward mount legs were fractured. The engine was offset to the right, approximately 20 degrees off the aircraft centerline. The engine was removed from the airframe and relocated to a maintenance facility for further evaluation.
The starter and generator were broken at their mounts. The pressure carburetor was crushed rearward. The induction air ducting was intact and not obstructed. The upper spark plugs were removed and were appeared new. Upper spark plugs for cylinders 1, 2, 5, & 6 were light gray in color. Upper spark plugs for cylinders 3 & 4 were oil fouled. Air was expelled and drawn into the cylinders when the engine crankshaft was rotated by means of the propeller. Both magnetos provided spark on all leads when the propeller was rotated. No anomalies were found with the ignition sequence or timing.
The engine-driven fuel pump was fractured between the mounting pad and the pump body. The drive shaft was rotated using an electric drill and the pump produced a positive fuel flow. The engine-driven fuel pump was reattached to the fuel supply line located forward of the firewall. The fuel pump produced a positive fuel flow, drawing fuel through the inline electric fuel pump.
The pressure carburetor was examined at the manufacture's facility. A conformity flow test could not be performed due to the condition of the carburetor. The carburetor was disassembled for additional examination. The fuel inlet screen was not contaminated. All passages (nozzles, bleeds, and jets) were free from any blockage or contamination.
No anomalies were found with the engine or its accessories that could be associated with a pre-impact condition.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Mercy Hospital, Muskegon, Michigan, on August 24, 2001.
A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The toxicology results for the pilot were:
* No Carbon Monoxide detected in Blood
* No Cyanide detected in Blood
* No Ethanol detected in Urine
* Metoprolol detected in Blood
* Metoprolol detected in Liver
* Metoprolol detected in Urine
Metoprolol is commonly used for the treatment of hypertension.
Parties to the investigation included the FAA and Teledyne Continental Motors.
The main wreckage was released to a representative of the Michigan State Police on August 25, 2001. The remainder of the wreckage was returned to an insurance company representative on December 17, 2001.