DFW05LA113
DFW05LA113

On April 29, 2005, at 1600 central daylight time, Piper PA-25-235 single-engine airplane, N4514Y, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power while on a banner-towing flight near Houston, Texas. The instrument-rated commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained minor injuries. The airplane was owned and operated by Nighthawk Aerial Advertising, Inc., of Pearland, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 banner-towing flight. The local flight originated from the Pearland Regional Airport (LVJ), approximately 30 minutes prior to the accident.

In a written statement, the 2,580-hour commercial pilot reported that he was tracking eastbound and was being followed by two other aircraft that were part of the banner towing flight. After approximately one hour and 20 minutes of flight, while at approximately 1,000 feet above ground level (agl), the engine stopped producing power "without making any noise or sputtering." The pilot stated that he "immediately looked down and saw and empty high school field and made a 180-degree turn back to the field, westbound." At approximately 300 feet agl, the pilot determined that he was "not going to make the field," so he manually released the banner to "increase his glide, which accelerated the airplane."

The pilot then "put the airplane into a slip" and touched down about 200 feet east of a tennis court. "The aircraft bounced due to an airspeed of about 70 to 80 miles per hour (mph)." The airplane then collided with a fence, with the right wing first, and came to rest nose-down on the tennis court.

Examination of the 1966 model airplane revealed structural damage to the fuselage and both wings. Fuel was found in both fuel cells. There was no external damage or deformation to the Lycoming O-540 engine. Further examination of the aircraft fuel system by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed water and solid contaminants in the gascolator and carburetor bowl, as well as an obvious "winged insect" trapped in the transparent inline fuel filter.

The Houston Hobby Airport (HOU), located approximately 15 miles from the accident site, was reporting at 1553 local, the following weather conditions: wind from 190 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 18 knots, visibility of 6 statute miles in haze, a broken ceiling at 2,800 feet, 5,500 feet overcast, with a temperature 28 degrees Centigrade , and a dew point of 22 degrees Centigrade. The altimeter setting was reported at 29.72 inches of Mercury.

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