DFW06LA199
DFW06LA199

On August 19, 2006, approximately 1315 central daylight time, a single-engine Piper PA-28-161 airplane, N82078, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power shortly after take-off from the Houston Southwest Airport (AXH), near Houston, Texas. The private pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries; a third passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to 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 cross-country flight was to originate from the Houston Southwest Airport (AXH), with a planned destination of the Navasota Municipal Airport (60R), near Navasota, Texas.

The 600-hour private pilot reported in the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) that he flown the airplane from Bay City (BYY), Texas, to AXH, (approximately a 38-nautical mile flight). However, when he and 3 passengers were ready to depart, the airplane would not start due to a "malfunction of the starter". A mechanic was called and the pilot reported that the mechanic removed the "skin" around the engine and "sprayed a large amount of varsol and silicone into the starter". The engine starter then worked. After the work was completed, the pilot reported he performed a "run-up and preflight inspection [and] all seemed okay." The pilot added that "during the take-off initial climb, while at about 300 feet MSL, the engine totally failed".

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, who responded to the accident site, the aircraft received structural damage during the forced landing. The inspector also noted that the airplane's fuel tanks contained fuel and a checklist was not available in the cockpit. Additionally, rescue personnel reported to the Inspector that the fuel selector was in the left-tank position; however, the fuel selector was turned to the off position by them after the accident.

The wreckage was recovered to Air Salvage of Dallas, in Lancaster, Texas, for further evaluation. Air Safety Investigators from the NTSB, airframe, and engine manufacturer, examined the airplane on October 13, 2006.

The nose landing gear and forward engine cowling were found crushed and pushed upward into the engine. One propeller blade was slightly bent backwards, approximately an inch "out of track."

The 160-horsepower engine was removed from the airframe, and placed on an engine test stand. The engine's exhaust system was crushed by the accident and was replaced with "straight exhaust pipes". Additionally, the airbox/filter was replaced with a cloth cover over the inlet side of the carburetor. The test stand's electric fuel pump was used to prime the engine, and the engine started. Because the propeller was bent, a major vibration developed and the engine could not be run above idle rpm. The engine was shutdown; the accident airplane's propeller was removed and replaced with a test propeller. The engine was then restarted and ran for approximately 15 minutes at various (idle to full power) settings. During initial startup and subsequent run, the engine's fuel pressure (engine driven pump) varied from about 2-3 psi, and then moved to about 5 psi and stabilized.

The airplane's electric fuel pump was removed from the airplane, and connected to a battery source and appear to operate normally. After the accident, the electric fuel pump switch was found in the off position. However, the position of the switch during the accident sequence could not be determined.

The fuel lines from the wings to the engine were checked, and were found to be clear of obstructions. The engine driven fuel pump was removed from the engine and disassembled. A small piece of debris (approximately 1/8 inch square) was found inside the pump; between the inlet and outlet chambers of the pump. The scat tubing that runs from the airbox to the carburetor was also inspected. The internal wire and tubing appeared in good shape; however, the tubing had been crushed during the accident.

The reason for the reported loss of engine power could not be determined.

At 1153, the automated weather observation system at the Sugarland Regional Airport, approximately 11 miles northwest of the accident site, reported calm winds, 10 miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 81 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.97 inches of Mercury.

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