CHI04LA078
CHI04LA078

On February 25, 2004, about 1635 eastern standard time (est), a Cessna R182, N5450T, piloted by a commercial pilot, sustained an in-flight fire during its cruise flight near Elberfeld, Indiana. The pilot performed a forced landing and the subsequent on-ground fire destroyed the airplane. The aerial pipeline observation flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was on file. The pilot reported no injuries. The flight originated from the Greater Kankakee Airport (IKK), near Kankakee, Illinois, about 1425 central standard time and was destined for the Maury County Airport, near Mount Pleasant (MKC), Tennessee.

The pilot reported that he completely refueled the airplane with 94 gallons of aviation fuel, and added a quart of oil to the engine at IKK. The pilot stated that he took fuel samples from both the wing sumps and main sump. No contamination was noticed and the sample fuel was returned to the left wing tank. The pilot performed a walk-around inspection of the airplane. The pilot reported that no fuel, oil, or any other discrepancies were revealed during the inspection. The pilot stated that the airplane started and ran normally. It was approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes before any indication of an in-flight fire.

The pilot stated:
The first indication of a fire occurred during my radio conversation
with Evansville Airport Approach Control. While asking for a
clearance through their airspace, I smelled two brief wisps of smoke.
... During the next thirty to forty-five seconds ... the smell returned
strongly enough for me to actively look outside for a possible source.
... I first felt a profound heat sensation on my left shin, and then noticed
a pronounced plume of smoke wafting from beneath the left side
instrument panel. ... I observed a small flame emitting from the
electrical wiring bundle where it penetrates the engine firewall above
the heater/defroster plenum near the outboard left edge of the firewall.
I pushed my seat back fully and discharged the extinguisher towards
the flame. The extinguisher agent immediately dispatched the flame,
but also eliminated any forward visibility out of the cockpit. I opened
the right door window and slipped the airplane to the left which caused
a net airflow across the cockpit flushing out enough of the white cloud
to allow me to see (and breathe) again. The engine continued
operating normally during this event and I observed normal engine
instrument indications (fuel pressure, manifold pressure, oil pressure,
RPM and temperatures). I made a hard turn towards the airport
(about 9 miles away) and initiated an emergency call to the airport
but aborted the call as an overwhelming cloud of acrid black smoke
suddenly filled the cockpit making it, again, impossible to breathe or
to see straight ahead. My plan immediately became to land
the airplane as soon as possible. I placed my head out the window
to be able to breathe and to look for a landing spot. ... I realized that
there was flame and black smoke coming from the left side of the
engine cowling at about the level of the carburetor air inlet. I then
slipped the plane to the right to attempt to shift the flame away from
my window and to avoid a farmhouse. I leaned over towards the
right window as far as I could without disconnecting my
seatbelt/double shoulder harness. ... I briefly saw that there was
smoke and possibly flame present on the right side of the cowling
as well. I felt that I was no better off slipping to the right than to the
left, so I resumed the left slip. ... The best spot to land, nearest a
blacktop road, was going to require a small increase in power to
make safely, but when I advanced the throttle I realized that the
engine had failed. ... I then rolled out on a heading that was my
best guess as to be in alignment with the length of the field and
started a flare. I elected to leave the landing gear up and touched
down in the plowed field near the bottom of the hill 200 yards west
of the house on a southwesterly heading. The aircraft skidded
briefly straight ahead without bouncing, then stopped. The
windshield was partially dislodged and the visible flames from the
cowl subsided. ... The right door was sprung and easily opened
when I kicked it. I was able to crawl out unaided and walked away
from the aircraft.

The pilot reported that after exiting the aircraft, the flames continued to build until the fire completely engulfed the forward three-fourths of the fuselage and both of the inner wing panels before the local fire department arrived.


PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on May 5, 2003, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses. He reported that he had accumulated 39,700 hours total flight time. The pilot reported that he flew 300 hours in the 90 days prior to the accident, 110 hours in the 30 days prior to the accident, and 16 hours in the 24 hours prior to the accident in the same make and model airplane as the accident airplane.


AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

N5450T, a Cessna R182, serial number R18201869, was a high wing, propeller-driven, retractable landing gear, semi-monocoque design, four-seat airplane. A 235 horsepower, six-cylinder, air cooled, horizontally opposed, Lycoming O-540-J3C5D, serial number L-23263-40A, engine, powered the airplane. The engine was overhauled on November 6, 2000. The carburetor was a Precision HA-6. It was replaced on August 27, 2003, and it had accumulated approximately 438.5 hours of time in service. The pilot reported that it had not exhibited any leaking prior to the accident. The mechanical fuel pump was a new Lycoming LW15472 at the time of the engine overhaul. The pump had a total of approximately 1,630 hours in service at the time of the accident. The pilot reported that the electric fuel pump (a Dukes 1500-00-31NV) was replaced last year and had approximately 700 hours in service at the time of the accident.

The pilot reported that an annual inspection of the airframe and engine was accomplished on February 19, 2003, and that the airplane had accumulated a total time of 12,523.9 hours. The airplane was flown approximately for 1,076 hours since the time of annual inspection to the day of the accident.

The pilot reported that the last servicing of the accident airplane took place earlier in the week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The oil was changed, the spark plugs were cleaned, and a general inspection of the engine compartment and flight controls took place.


METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1654 est, the Evansville Regional Airport (EVV), Evansville, Indiana recorded weather was: Wind 090 degrees at 11 knots; visibility 10 statue miles; sky condition clear; temperature 09 degrees C; dew point -07 degrees C; altimeter 30.16 inches of mercury.


WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the wreckage of the accident airplane on February 26, 2004. The inspector reported that the majority of aircraft was consumed by fire. He stated that the tail section was intact, the outer section of the both wings remained intact, and that both fuel tanks had ruptured. The fire destroyed the entire cabin area. He reported that the inboard section of the wings had extensive fire damage. The inspector stated that control continuity could only be accomplished from the control surface to the cabin section and that the control cables were encased in the molten remains of the aircraft.

The inspector reported that the engine compartment had extensive fire damage. The carburetor, engine sump, accessory drive case, and all accessories were completely consumed in the fire. He stated that the bottom of the crankcase had a large hole were the aluminum case had melted. The inspector reported that a fuel line, that appeared to be one from the firewall to the carburetor, had the remains of its fittings still attached and those fittings were not loose. The propeller blades melted to the hub.


TESTS AND RESEARCH

Testing was unable to be performed due to the extent of fire damage.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The FAA was a party to the investigation.

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