IAD04LA007
IAD04LA007

On January 10, 2004, about 1015 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-25-180, N242JG, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Essex Skypark (W48), Baltimore, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the airplane was operating on a visual flight rules flight plan. The local banner towing flight, which originated at Martin State Airport (MTN), Baltimore, Maryland, was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he began pre-heating the engine in the airplane's hangar at 0900, and started the engine about 0945. The pilot allowed the engine to run at 1,000 rpm for about 10 minutes, while he performed a pre-flight check of the cockpit. The pilot then proceeded to taxi, and subsequently performed an engine run-up, during which, he noted no anomalies. The airplane departed Martin State about 1010, and proceeded to Essex Skypark at an altitude of 1,200 feet to pick up a banner.

At Essex, the pilot entered the left downwind leg for runway 34 at 1,000 feet, set the throttle to 1,700 rpm, and applied carburetor heat. Shortly before reaching the banner pickup point, the pilot turned off the carburetor heat in anticipation of the climb out, and slowed the airplane. The pilot then "hooked" the banner, and proceeded to climb the airplane while increasing engine power to 2,500 rpm.

During the increase of engine power, the engine "gave one spat, then proceeded to climb strong at 2,500 rpm." The pilot thought that the irregularity was a backfire, and was not immediately concerned; however, about 200 feet above the runway, while leveling the airplane's nose, the engine's rpm suddenly dropped, and the engine sputtered to a stop. The pilot instantly released the banner, and began trying to revive the engine by applying carburetor heat and pumping the throttle. The pilot determined that because of the low altitude, he could not complete a turn back to the runway, so he instead elected to land straight ahead. The airplane impacted trees north of the departure end of runway 34.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane was located in a tree with the left wing down, and the wing tip stuck into the ground at a 90-degree angle. The airplane remained in the tree for approximately 1 week until being removed by helicopter. After the airplane was removed, the inspector had a mechanic inspect the engine and fuel lines. The mechanic found no evidence of any mechanical failure. The inspector also examined the fuel lines for the presence of water, and found none; however, he noted that during the week that the airplane was in the tree, the air temperature had fluctuated significantly. The propeller was also examined, and did not exhibit any signs of damage, "not even a scratch."

The FAA inspector also noted that the airplane's hangar had been unheated, and the air temperature had dipped to 10 degrees Fahrenheit during the previous evening. In addition, the operator of the airplane felt that there may have been frozen water in the fuel system.

The weather reported at Martin State Airport, located 4 nautical miles to the north, at 1154, included winds from 330 degrees true at 7 knots, 10 miles visibility, an overcast ceiling at 12,000 feet, temperature 16 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 30.45 inches of mercury. Carburetor icing diagrams confirmed that there was no probability of carburetor icing at the existing temperature and dew point.

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