On May 26, 2006, about 1338 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-151, N4596X, collided with a car during a forced landing following a loss of engine power at the Oxnard Airport (OXR), Oxnard, California. The pilot operated the borrowed airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was seriously injured. The two occupants in the vehicle sustained minor injuries; there were no other ground injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The local area flight was originating at the time.

According to tower personnel, shortly after takeoff from runway 25, while the airplane was on the upwind leg, the pilot reported that the engine quit. He was attempting to turn the airplane back for runway 7 when it touched down in a field and then struck a car traveling south on Victoria Avenue, about a 1/4-mile west of the airport.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector responded to the accident site. He observed witness marks in an adjacent field that he indicated were tire marks from the landing gear of the airplane. The airplane then traveled in an easterly direction about 350 feet where it impacted a chain link fence, went through the fence, and crossed the north bound side of Victoria. The airplane impacted a sport utility vehicle (SUV) traveling southbound on Victoria. The FAA inspector reported that the airplane struck the right corner panel of the SUV, and one of the propeller blades penetrated the right side front windshield.

An Oxnard Airport Fire Department firefighter, who was a first responder to the downed airplane, reported to the FAA inspector that the fuel selector was positioned on the RIGHT tank, but he had turned it to the off position. Subsequent interviews with the airport operations manager revealed that at least he and maybe others had manipulated the fuel selector valve handle before the fire department's arrival in an attempt to shut off the flow of fuel. Fuel was leaking out of the left wing. The right wing separated from the airframe; however, the fuel tank was not breached. The right fuel tank was full.

The airframe and engine were examined May 31, 2006, at hangar facilities located at the Oxnard airport by the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC), and representatives from Piper and Textron Lycoming, who were parties to the investigation.

The propeller was removed to facilitate the examination. The top spark plugs were removed, examined, and photographed. The vacuum pump was removed, and the crankshaft was rotated by hand through the drive pad utilizing a drive tool. The crankshaft was free and easy to rotate in both directions. Thumb compression was observed in proper order on all four cylinders. The complete valve train was observed to operate in proper order. Normal "lift action" was observed at each rocker assembly. Clean, uncontaminated oil was observed at all four rocker box areas. Mechanical continuity was established throughout the rotating group, valve train, and accessory section during hand rotation of the crankshaft.

The combustion chamber of the cylinders were examined through the spark plug holes utilizing a lighted borescope. The combustion chambers remained mechanically undamaged, and there was no evidence of foreign object, ingestion, or detonation. The valves were intact and undamaged. There was no evidence of valve to piston face contact observed. The gas path and combustion signatures observed at the spark plugs, combustion chambers, and exhaust system components displayed coloration consistent with normal operation. There was no oil residue observed in the exhaust system gas path. The left magneto was found securely clamped at the mounting pad. The impulse coupling was heard clicking during rotation of the crankshaft. The magneto to engine timing was observed at 25 degrees BTDC of the cylinder number 1. The magneto was observed to produce spark at all four plug leads during hand rotation of the crankshaft. The impulse coupler drive was observed to operate normally. The right magneto was found securely clamped at the mounting pad. The magneto to engine timing was observed at 25 degrees BTDC of the cylinder number 1. The magneto was removed and the drive was found intact and properly safetied. The
magneto was observed to produce intermittent spark at the four plug leads during hand rotation of the drive.

The magnetos were sent to the manufacturer for further testing. The subject magnetos were shipped to the manufacturer's facilities of Unison Industries, Rockford, Illinois, where on August 2, 2006, investigators from the Safety Board's North Central Regional Office, Lycoming Engines, and technicians from Unison conducted functional testing of the subject magnetos utilizing a test stand. According to the Safety Board, and the Lycoming Engines participant, both magnetos operated in a normal manor within specifications.

The oil filter was secure at the mounting pad and was not removed for examination. The oil suction screen was secure at the mounting and was not removed for examination. There was no evidence of pre-mishap metal contamination observed at the rocker box areas when opened for examination.

The spark plugs were secure at each position with their respective spark plug lead attached. The spark plugs were removed and examined, with the spark plug electrodes found mechanically undamaged, and according to the Champion Spark Plugs Check-A-Plug chart AV-27, displaying coloration consistent with normal operation.

The carburetor was separated at the fuel bowl due to the absorption of impact energy. The portion of the carburetor that remained attached at the mounting pad was secure. The fracture surface signatures at the attachment screws were consistent with overload.

The throttle/mixture controls were found securely attached at their respective control arms of the carburetor and continuity to the cockpit was established. All engine compartment fuel lines were found to be in place and secure at their respective fittings.

The fuel bowl remained free of visible contaminates. The float assembly remained secure at the mounting and free of damage. The foam filter element remained securely attached to the airbox bracket. The filter element remained intact and exhibited no evidence of preimpact obstruction to airflow. Fluid consistent with the appearance and odor of automotive fuel was drained from the main fuel tanks and engine driven fuel pump.

The fuel pump was attached to the engine at the mounting pad. The fuel lines remained secure at their respective fittings. The fuel pump was removed for examination. The fuel pump remained free of internal mechanical malfunction and obstruction to flow. The fuel pump's rubber diaphragm was unbroken and investigators blew air through the lines. The plunger in the fuel distribution valve moved freely, the rubber diaphragm was unbroken, and investigators did not observe any contamination. The fuel nozzles were open and the screens were clean.

Fuel was drained from the left fuel sump. The fuel was yellow in color.

Examination of the airframe established flight control continuity from the cockpit out to the ailerons and empennage control surfaces. The fuel selector handle in the cockpit was observed to be a nonstandard handle. The design and fabrication of the handle bypassed the guard and the handle was able to rotate almost 360 degrees.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page