ATL07LA044
ATL07LA044

On February 20, 2007, about 1507 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N41077, registered to and operated by Great News Transportation, Inc, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight from Columbus, Georgia to Eufaula, Alabama, collided with terrain while attempting a forced landing following a loss of power to both engines in Phenix City, Alabama. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The commercial pilot received serious injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated from Columbus, Georgia, on February 20, 2007, at 1450.

According to the pilot, after takeoff from the Columbus Metropolitan Airport (CSG), and about 800 feet above ground level, the right engine began to misfire followed immediately by the left engine misfiring. The pilot began a 180-degree turn back toward the airport and contacted CSG tower for permission to land. He declared an emergency when it was evident he could not make the runway, and looked for an emergency landing spot. He saw a road to his left front and attempted to land. The pilot stated that he was knocked unconscious for an undetermined time after touchdown. When he regained consciousness, he was able to exit the airplane and was taken to the emergency room in Columbus, Georgia.

On February 21, 2007, examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector found the airplane located at the intersection of River Chase Drive and Airport Road, approximately 5 miles west southwest of the Columbus Airport. An overview of the accident site disclosed that the pilot had tried to land on River Chase Drive in a southerly direction, overshooting the roadway and striking an embankment on the east side of the road. After initial impact with the ground, the airplane continued to roll-out about 150 feet, striking a roadway curb, collapsing the nose gear and shearing the right main landing gear from the airplane. The airplane came to rest on an embankment with the left main landing gear extended and intact, resting on the right wing tip. Both engines had separated from the wings with the right engine lying in front of the right wing and the left engine lying under the left wing.

Examination of the cockpit revealed the fuel selectors were on the inboard tanks and the cross-feed was off. Electrical power was turned on, and the fuel gauges read empty. Due to the engines breaking away from the wings, all engine controls were in the forward position, except the right mixture control which was pulled back to the idle cutoff position. The airplane did not have any placards or markings in the cockpit area, indicating a warning for low fuel quantity operations.

Examination of the propellers revealed that both propellers were bent aft with minimum rotational damage. Both engines were intact and enclosed within their cowlings, no damage was noted to either engine.

Examination of the right engine included partial disassembly. The induction air pipes, exhaust system, spark plugs, valve covers, accessory components, and rear accessory case were removed and examined. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand and continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives was established. Each cylinder produced compression while the engine was rotated. At the conclusion of the examination, no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction was found.

Examination of the left engine included partial disassembly. Impact damage was noted to the lower front sections. The induction air pipes and alternator were impact damaged. The muffler and exhaust pipes were partially crushed. The engine crankshaft was rotated by hand and continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives was established. Each cylinder produced compression while the engine was rotated. At the conclusion of the examination, no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction was found.

During recovery operations, the airplane was placed on a trailer in a level attitude, 7 gallons of fuel was drained from the inboard fuel tanks, and no fuel was drained from the outboard fuel tanks. A total of 14 gallons of fuel was drained from the airplane. The unusable fuel was 3 gallons for each inboard fuel tank.

The airplane flight manual was reviewed for low fuel procedures/limitations. The following is an excerpt from Section 10.

"(d) The shape of the wing fuel tanks is such that in certain maneuvers the fuel may move away from the tank outlet. If the outlet is uncovered, the fuel flow will be interrupted and a temporary loss of power may result. Pilots can prevent inadvertent uncovering of the outlet by having adequate fuel in the tank selected and avoiding maneuvers which could result in uncovering the outlet. Normal and running turning takeoffs are not to be made when the inboard tanks are less the one-quarter full as fuel flow interruption may occur. Only the inboard tanks may be used for takeoff. Outboard tanks are for coordinated level flight only and may never be used for takeoff. Prolonged slips or skids of 30 seconds or more, in any pitch attitude or other unusual or abrupt maneuvers which could cause uncovering of the fuel outlet must be avoided when outboard tanks are being used or when inboard tanks are less than one-quarter full."

A review of fueling records found that the airplane was fueled with 113.6 gallons at Rushton Air, in Eufaula, Alabama on February 19th and 85.8 gallons of fuel at Ramp 66, in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on February 20.

Fuel consumption calculations over the proposed flight path was estimated at 24 gallons per hour times 4 hours per engine, and using the known fuel load provided by two fueling facilities listed above. Upon landing at Columbus, Georgia the airplane should have had about 22 gallons of fuel onboard. Including the ground run, takeoff, and climb, an estimated fuel consumption of 8 gallons was used prior to the lose of engine power.


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