ANC02LA069
ANC02LA069

On June 25, 2002, about 1145 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300 airplane, N2947N, sustained substantial damage when it encountered soft sandy terrain during an emergency landing on a beach about 10 miles southeast of Kake, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) scheduled passenger flight under Title 14, CFR Part 135, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by L A B Flying Service Inc., Haines, Alaska, as Flight 523. The commercial pilot received minor injuries, two passengers received minor injuries, and the three other passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company VFR flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated at Kake, about 1129, and was bound for Petersburg, Alaska.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on June 25, the director of maintenance for the operator said the accident airplane was in cruise flight when the upper engine cowling separated from the airplane. He said he believed the wind passing over the open engine compartment extracted the engine oil dipstick, which also departed the airplane. He said oil siphoned from the dipstick tube covered the windscreen, and the pilot declared an emergency. A U. S. Coast Guard helicopter flying in the area joined up with the accident airplane in-flight, and directed the pilot to a sandy beach suitable for an emergency landing. During landing, the nose wheel sank into the soft sand and collapsed, damaging the airplane's firewall.

During a telephone conversation with the IIC on July 8, the director of maintenance said the airplane's damaged firewall would have to be replaced.

In a written statement to the NTSB, the pilot reported that he believed the engine cowling separation from the airplane was the result of a bird strike. None of the individuals previously interviewed during the course of the investigation mentioned a bird strike.

A report issued by the FAA aviation safety inspector, who examined the accident airplane, noted that the upper cowling assembly was missing except for a full length section from the left side approximately 10 inches wide. The report further noted significant wear patterns on the right-side lower cowling receptacles, at the points where the upper cowling latch levers contacted the receptacles.

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