IAD02LA044
IAD02LA044

On April 23, 2002, about 1724 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N166PA, was substantially damaged during a forced landing shortly after takeoff from Bowman Field (LOU), Louisville, Kentucky. The certificated private pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight destined for Clark County Airport (JVY), Jeffersonville, Indiana. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

During a telephone interview, the pilot said the purpose of the flight was to fly to Clark County to pick up his children. He performed the preflight inspection of the airplane by the checklist, and filled both main fuel tanks with fuel. The auxiliary wing tip tanks were not serviced because the left wing tip tank had maintenance pending, and he wanted to preclude de-fueling of the tank prior to the work. The fuel samples drained from the airplane during pre-flight were absent of water and debris.

The run-up was by the checklist and the engine sounded "fine" during the takeoff roll and initial climb. When the airplane reached approximately 1,000 feet, it reacted as if the throttle had been reduced to idle. There was a smooth reduction in power, with no sputtering or popping. The pilot checked the position of the fuel selector and fuel boost pump switch, then began his search for a forced landing area.

The pilot headed for a golf course, but as he approached, a successful landing appeared unlikely. The engine surged as he cleared trees, and he steered for a parking ramp that came into view. Prior to reaching the parking ramp, the airplane struck a building, then the ground.

The pilot also stated that the airplane's left wing separated when it struck the building, the right wing separated when it struck a post, and the propeller became entangled with a fence. He smelled smoke, released his seatbelt, and egressed the airplane. He then went back into the airplane, turned off the fuel boost pump and magnetos, and removed the keys.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector was in the vicinity of Bowman field at the time of the accident, and arrived on scene about 5 minutes after the accident. In a telephone interview, the inspector described his observations at the site. He said the left wing burned, and the right wing tip tank was ruptured. The left main fuel tank contained fuel.

Examination of the cockpit revealed that the fuel selector was on the left tip tank. The master switch was off, the boost pump was on, the carburetor heat control was in, the throttle was full in, and the mixture was full in. The magnetos were off and the keys were removed.

The inspector determined that two people had touched the wreckage prior to his arrival. A firefighter had disconnected the battery, and a member of the Civil Air Patrol had retrieved the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) and turned it off. The pilot reported to the inspector that he had turned the master switch off, and removed the keys.

The inspector was asked if he had discussed the position of the fuel selector with the pilot. According to the inspector, the pilot maintained that the fuel selector was on the left main tank at pre-flight, and that he never moved it.

Two FAA inspectors (airworthiness) inspected the airplane at the scene on April 24, 2002. Both inspectors signed a written statement of their observations.

According to the statement, the carburetor drain plug was removed and approximately 1 tablespoon of fuel was recovered. The fuel supply line to the carburetor was removed and 1/2 teaspoon of fuel was recovered. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was removed and no foreign debris was noted.

The fuel selector was in the left wingtip position and the electric fuel pump switch was in the 'on' position. The fuel selector filter screen and the electric pump filter screen were not removed for inspection due to the location and position of the aircraft.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent third class medical certificate was issued March 19, 2002.

The pilot also reported about 270 hours of flight experience, of which 6.8 hours were in make and model. The pilot had recently purchased an interest in the airplane, and his insurance company required that he receive 5 hours of instruction in it. The pilot completed the 5-hour requirement, and flew an additional 1.8 hours with an instructor. The accident flight was the pilot's first solo flight in the airplane.

Examination of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that the most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on August 1, 2001, at 5,503 aircraft hours and an overhauled engine was installed during the inspection. The airplane accrued 69 hours since that date, and the principal owner of the airplane said there were no deficiencies in its performance and handling since the inspection and installation of the new engine. He also said that the engine ran smoothly, and for the power it produced, it was smooth and quiet.

On May 15, 2002, the engine was inspected and prepared for a test run under FAA supervision. Examination of the engine revealed impact damage to the propeller, the #2 cylinder valve cover, and the main fuel supply line.

Prior to engine start, all fuel lines loosened during the on-scene inspection were secured, the valve cover was straightened, and the propeller was replaced. The fuel distribution valve was inspected for integrity and found intact. An external fuel supply line was plumbed from the output side of the selector valve to the engine. A fuel can with four supply ports was fabricated, and plumbed with hoses to the inlet ports of the selector valve. This allowed simulation of the four fuel tanks and testing of all four ports of the fuel selector valve.

The fuel pump worked normally and the simulated left main tank was selected as the starting fuel source. The engine started on the third rotation. During the warm-up phase, the engine was allowed to feed from each of the tank selections to ensure that the selector valve operated normally. All four selections fed the engine without interruption. The engine was accelerated to 1,750 rpm and a magneto drop check was performed. The results were a 150-rpm drop on the left magneto, and a 100-rpm drop on the right magneto. According to the inspectors present, the engine ran "fine".

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