On March 16, 2005, at 1431 eastern standard time, a Cessna 152, N64986, was substantially damaged during a forced landing to a road near Port Royal, Virginia. The certificated private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, which originated at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, and was destined for Washington Executive Airport (W32), Clinton, Maryland. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
During a telephone interview and in a written statement, the pilot recounted the events that transpired during the flight:
On departure from Raleigh-Durham he climbed the airplane to 5,000 feet, but upon noticing an accumulation of ice on the airplane, he requested a descent to a lower altitude from air traffic control. The pilot was cleared, and descended the airplane to 3,000 feet. About 30 minutes into the flight, he felt an engine "vibration." He applied carburetor heat re-leaned the mixture control, and the engine "smoothed out."
About 1 hour and 30 minutes after departure, and about 30 miles from the destination airport, the airplane encountered mist while cruising at and altitude of 4,000 feet. The pilot noted that the temperature was 35 - 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and activated the pitot heat. Shortly thereafter, the engine "quit." When asked, the pilot further described that the engine was at cruise power one second, and the next second the engine had stopped running.
The pilot elected to perform a forced landing to a highway. Just prior to touchdown, the engine "surged," then stopped again. During the landing rollout the right wing tip and the left wing impacted two highway signs, and the airplane veered off the highway and into a median.
The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions or failures associated with the airplane.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors who responded to the scene, the airplane came to rest partially in a ditch, with the left wing sitting lower than the right wing. The inspectors attempted to check the quantity of fuel in the airplane by using a stick, and found trace amounts of fuel in the right fuel tank and 3 to 4 inches of fuel in the left fuel tank.
The inspectors moved the airplane onto level ground and asked the pilot to start the engine. The engine started on the second attempt, and ran for about 30 seconds at idle rpm, until the pilot shut it down.
According to a representative of the company that recovered the airplane from the accident site, on the day following the accident, he drained about 2 gallons of fuel from left fuel tank, and the right fuel tank was absent of fuel. No indication could be found that either of the fuel tanks had been compromised during the accident.
Prior to the accident flight, the pilot departed Washington Executive Airport for Raleigh with "full" fuel tanks, and flew for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Upon reaching Raleigh, the pilot believed that 13 gallons of fuel remained onboard the airplane, which he calculated based on fuel consumption calculations from previous flights. Those calculations were based on an assumed fuel consumption rate of 7 gallons per hour for the first hour of flight, and 6 gallons per hour for each subsequent hour of flight. The pilot then added 5 gallons of fuel, or 2.5 gallons in each fuel tank, prior to departure on the accident flight.
According to the 1978 Cessna 152 Pilot's Operating Handbook, the airplane's fuel system had a total capacity of 26 gallons, and a useable capacity of 24.5 gallons.
The weather reported at Shannon Airport, Fredericksburg, Virginia, located about 13 nautical miles northwest, at 1421, included winds from 210 degrees at 4 knots, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet, temperature 48 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 23 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.08 inches of mercury.