On April 3, 2004, at 0900 central standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300 single-engine airplane, N47976, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power while landing at the Georgetown Municipal Airport (GTU), near Georgetown, Texas. The commercial pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to Lance 976 Corporation, Houston, Texas, and operated by a private individual. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 116-nautical mile cross-country flight originated from the David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (DWH), near Houston, Texas, about 0805. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to the 1,050-hour pilot, he performed a preflight inspection of the airplane and sumped each fuel tank, which were found to be absent of debris and water. He then purchased 40 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline, for a total of 80 gallons (40 gallons per side), and departed DWH with the fuel selector on the right fuel tank. Upon reaching a cruise altitude of 4,500 feet, he selected the left fuel tank, and the flight was uneventful.
Approximately eight or nine minutes from GTU, he initiated a 400-foot per minute descent, reduced power to 23 inches of manifold pressure, and switched the fuel selector from the left to the right fuel tank. Upon reaching a pattern altitude of 1,800 feet approximately four miles west of GTU, he entered a tight right downwind for Runway 36. When the airplane was abeam the runway numbers, the airspeed was 10 knots above the landing gear extension speed, so he reduced manifold pressure to 18 inches. The pilot turned on the fuel boost pump, and pushed the mixture and prop controls forward. He extended the downwind leg to further reduce speed. While turning base, he extended the landing gear and pushed the throttle forward, but the engine would not respond; however, he does not recall the RPM setting.
The pilot added that he was unable to maintain altitude, so he reduced airspeed to 80 knots, and executed a forced landing on a feeder road adjacent to Interstate 35. Prior to touchdown, he verified that the fuel boost pump was on, the fuel selector was in the detent, and the master and ignition switches were on. He also pushed the mixture and propeller controls to the full forward position. The flaps were never extended.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector performed an examination of the airplane. Damage was observed to the propeller, spinner, the right wing, the left wing impacted a street sign, the right flap was bent, the left and right main landing gear, and the lower fuselage was wrinkled. Continuity and full travel of the throttle and mixture controls was established. According to the inspector, both wing fuel tanks had ruptured and fuel was dispersed on the road. The recovery crew removed approximately 20-25 gallons of fuel from the right fuel tank, and 3-4 gallons from the left fuel tank. The airplane was recovered to a maintenance facility located at the Georgetown Airport for further evaluation.
On April 15, 2004, the engine was test run with a two-bladed propeller. The fuel-injected engine was run on the airframe utilizing a provisional fuel line that was attached to the right fuel tank's inboard fitting and a plastic gas can. The engine started and ran normal from idle to 1,500 RPM without interruption. There was no mixture rise observed when leaning the mixture with the engine running at 1,500 RPM. A magneto check was conducted at 1,500 RPM. The engine ran smooth with the RPM dropping approximately 100-125 RPM on both the left and right magneto positions. The cockpit fuel pressure gauge was sluggish and indicated slightly low. A test gauge was installed that indicated 20 psi at idle with the boost pump off and 22 psi with the boost pump on. At 1,500 RPM, the test gauge indicated 25 psi with the boost pump on or off. The fuel vents were also absent of debris. The induction air filter and induction system "appeared" normal and unobstructed. No mechanical anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal engine operation.