CHI08LA108
CHI08LA108

On April 20, 2008, at 2100 central daylight time, a Cessna 172L, N9832G, operated by the Green Castle Aero Club Ltd., sustained substantial damage during an emergency landing when it nosed over in a field about 2.5 miles north of Fairfax, Iowa, after a loss of engine power. The pilot received minor injuries and the passenger received serious injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight originated from the Green Castle Airport (IA24), Oxford, Iowa, after 1800 on a cross-country flight with IA24 as the final destination airport. Night visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed.

The Green Castle Aero Club maintained flight logs for each of the club's airplanes. The log for N9832G indicated that the airplane was checked out twice on the day of the accident. The flight log showed that the first flight lasted 1.1 hours as indicated on the Hobbs meter.

The pilot of the first flight reported that he arrived at the airport in the afternoon with 3 friends. During the preflight he checked the fuel by looking into the tank. He stated that the fuel quantity was "on the low side." Since he was taking 3 friends for a flight, he did not top off the fuel tanks. Instead, he added 18.2 gallons as indicated by the flight log. He fueled both wing tanks so the fuel level was about 2 inches from the fuel cap. He stated that each wing was about 2 - 3 gallons short of being fully topped off.

The general practice at the Aero Club was for the pilots not to fuel the airplanes after their flights. Instead, it was the next flying pilot's responsibility to fuel the airplane before the flight, because he would know what kind of loads would be carried during the flight and how much fuel would be needed to balance the load. The first pilot flew for 1.1 hours and landed about 1645. He did not fuel the airplane after landing. He reported that the airplane operated normally during the flight.

The flight log showed that the accident flight lasted 2.9 hours as indicated on the Hobbs meter. The accident pilot did not add fuel to the airplane prior to takeoff. The passenger reported that they departed IA24 after 1800 and flew to Ottumwa, Iowa, which was about a 50 nautical mile (nm) leg. They then flew to Waterloo Regional Airport (ALO), Waterloo, Iowa, which was about an 87 nm leg. They picked up 2 other passengers and flew at ALO for about 30 minutes before deplaning them at ALO. The third leg of the flight was to return to IA24, which was about a 58 nm leg.

The pilot reported that while en route to IA24 at 3,000 feet mean sea level (msl), the engine lost approximately 50 percent of its power, and he was unable to maintain altitude. After traveling about 5 miles the engine quit, and the pilot executed a forced landing to a field.

The passenger reported that when the engine started running rough, the pilot contacted air traffic control at Eastern Iowa Airport (CID), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and notified the controller that the he was executing a forced landing. The pilot attempted to land on a gravel road, but during the approach saw power lines next to the road so he landed in a field. She reported that the airplane hit hard, bounced, hit again, and ultimately nosed over. After the pilot and passenger exited the airplane, she rested on the wing while waiting for help. She reported that the first responder arrived while the pilot was still calling 911 on his mobile telephone.

The first responder was a fireman whose residence was about 1 mile from the accident site. When he arrived on scene he provided medical aid to the passenger who thought she had broken some ribs. The fireman reported that he and the pilot surveyed the area for hazards. The fireman noted that he did not see or smell any fuel leaking. The fireman reported that the pilot stated, "That's probably what the problem was." The fireman reported that the pilot said the both fuel gauges read 1/4 full and in his estimation should have had about 1 hour of fuel remaining.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined the airplane at the accident site. Their inspection revealed that all three landing gear initially impacted the soft field, and then the next ground scars were located about 60 feet away. The nose gear sank into the muddy field and the nose tire assembly separated from the nose gear. The airplane nosed over and came to rest in an inverted position. Flight control cable continuity was confirmed from the flight controls to their respective attach points on the flight control surfaces. The wing flaps were found in the retracted (up) position. There was no evidence of fuel at the accident site. The left and right fuel caps were installed and no signs of fresh fuel leaks were observed. No fuel staining at the carburetor was observed.

The airplane's Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) indicated that the airplane held a total of 38 gallons but its useable fuel total was 36 gallons. The first pilot to fly the airplane estimated that he departed with about 34 gallons of fuel on board with a useable fuel total of about 32 gallons. The first pilot flew for 1.1 hours. According to the POH, the airplane used about 9.7 gallons of fuel during the 1.1-hour flight. The airplane used about 7.9 gallons per hour in cruise flight at 2,500 feet msl, and consumed about 1 gallon of fuel in the climb to 2,500 feet msl. The total fuel remaining after the flight was about 24.3 gallons total with about 22.3 gallons of useable fuel.

The accident pilot logged 2.9 hours. The estimated fuel consumed was about 22.9 gallons for cruise flight, and about 1 gallon of fuel for the climb to 3,000 feet msl, for a total of 23.9 gallons.

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