On December 15, 2005, approximately 1945 central standard time, a Bellanca 17-30A single-engine airplane, N78SV, registered to and operated by the pilot, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Columbus, Texas. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was seriously injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The local flight departed from the Robert R. Wells Jr. Airport (66R) near Columbus, Texas, approximately 1935, and was destined for the Fayette Regional Air Center Airport (3T5) near La Grange, Texas. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
In a telephone interview with an NTSB representative, a certificated flight instructor (CFI) stated that he was instructing the accident pilot on December 13, 2005, toward a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instrument rating, and after landing from the instructional flight, he noticed oil on the engine cowling and told the accident pilot to make sure the problem was addressed by a mechanic before the next flight. The accident pilot then told the CFI that it could have been due to an overspill that was made while adding a quart of oil without a funnel.
On the evening of the accident, the CFI was flying in another airplane and preparing to land at 66R when he heard the accident pilot reporting on the local area common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that she was taxiing to the active runway. The instructor then asked over the radio, "What are you doing?" The accident pilot responded that she was taking her airplane to 3T5 so that a mechanic could check the engine. Concerned, the instructor then asked, "Is the oil pressure up?" The accident pilot responded that it was. The instructor asked how she was going to return to 66R; the accident pilot replied that she was going to try to find someone to pick her up. The instructor offered to follow her to 3T5, and then return with her to 66R in his airplane. The accident pilot acknowledged and accepted his offer.
The CFI then turned toward 3T5, and after a few minutes the accident pilot contacted him on the local frequency stating her engine had quit and she was now at 2,200-feet above ground level (AGL). The CFI told her to turn to the south towards 66R, and then he declared an emergency on the radio frequency for her. He then instructed her to switch the fuel tank selector valve to the auxiliary fuel tank and tell him if the engine would restart. She replied that it had not restarted, but she could now see both Interstate 10 and the town of Columbus, Texas, in the distance. The instructor told her to land as close to Interstate 10 as possible, if she could not make it to 66R. A few seconds later, the CFI stated he could hear the pilot pressing her radios' push-to-talk switch in an attempt to activate the pilot controlled runway lighting intensity at 66R. The instructor then stated that during this time, he also heard the accident airplanes' audible stall warning horn, before communications were lost.
Examination of the airplane by a FAA Inspector, who responded to the accident site, revealed that the 1978 airplane struck a large tree before impacting terrain in a right wing, nose low attitude. The airplane came to rest in an upright position in a field approximately five miles northwest of 66R. The right wing had partially separated from the fuselage and the fuel lines for the right wing tanks were severed.
The airplane was equipped with three interconnected 10-gallon fuel tanks in each wing and a 15-gallon fuselage auxiliary fuel tank. Maximum fuel capacity was 75 gallons. Prior to the wreckage recovery, it was noted that approximately two gallons of fuel were removed from the right wing fuel tanks, approximately seven gallons of fuel were removed from the fuselage auxiliary fuel tank, and the left wing fuel tanks were empty. The auxiliary fuel tank and left wing fuel tanks were not breached.
The fuel tank selector was found in the auxiliary position and the electronic auxiliary fuel pump switch was found in the off position.
According to the accident pilot's husband, the airplane was refueled on December 11, 2005, at Bourland Field (50F), near Granbury, Texas. He then stated that he visually checked the fuel tanks to ensure they were completely filled before the approximately 200 nautical mile cross-country flight to 66R. Fuel logs at 50F revealed that the accident pilot had purchased 47.8 gallons of fuel. The accident pilot's husband also confirmed that the airplane was not refueled at 66R because the airport fuel station was not in operation, and refueling would have required them to fly to 3T5.
Data retrieved from a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) unit found at the accident site revealed the accident pilot flew on December 11, 2005, for approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes from 50F to 66R. On December 13, 2005, the accident pilot flew for approximately 2 hours and 23 minutes on an instructional flight. The flight instructor confirmed the airplane was not refueled after the flight. The accident pilot then flew for approximately 8 minutes during the accident flight.
The wreckage was recovered to Air Salvage of Dallas (ASOD) near Lancaster, Texas, for further examination.
On December 23, 2005, representatives from the NTSB and Teledyne Continental Motors accomplished an examination of the Teledyne Continental Motors model IO-520-K fuel-injected, horizontally opposed engine.
During the engine examination, it was noted that the number two cylinder valve cover was crushed, the number two top sparkplug lead was separated from the sparkplug, the balance tube was damaged, and the oil sump was crushed at the bottom.
The crankshaft was hand rotated; continuity was confirmed to all cylinders and the oil pump gears rotated. Hand compression was confirmed on all cylinders. The sparkplugs were removed and displayed normal wear with light gray deposits in the electrode areas when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug Wear Guide (Part Number AV-27).
The magnetos showed no damaged; timing was confirmed at 22 degrees before top dead center. Both magnetos sparked through the ignition leads to all terminals when the crankshaft was rotated. The oil screen was removed and examined, and was found to be clean with no metal particles.
The fuel-metering unit showed no damaged. The throttle and mixture controls were connected and moved freely. The fuel supply screen was clean, clear, and wet with fuel. The fuel manifold appeared undamaged, with the safety wire and seal in place. The fuel manifold was disassembled and the spring and diaphragm were undamaged. The fuel screen in the fuel manifold was clean and clear. No fuel was found inside the fuel manifold. The engine driven fuel pump was in place and undamaged. No fuel was observed in the interior of the pump. The fuel injector nozzles were undamaged and were clean and clear.
The examination of the engine and fuel system, which included an operational examination of the electronic auxiliary fuel pump, did not reveal any anomalies that could explain a loss of engine power.
The accident pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, which was issued on January 14, 2005. The pilot's most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on October 1, 2004, with no limitations or waivers stated. The accident pilot's personal logbook was not available for review during the course of the accident investigation. According to the flight instructor, the accident pilot had logged approximately 150-hours in the accident airplane, of which approximately 30-hours in the preceding six months was dual training. The accident pilot was unavailable for an interview due to the extent of the injuries sustained, and a Pilot/Operator Report (NTSB 6120.1) was not received.
At 1950, the automated weather observing system (AWOS) at 3T5, located approximately 22 miles northwest of the accident site, reported wind from 340 at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky condition was overcast at 900 feet, temperature 48 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure of 29.97 inches of Mercury.