On March 16, 2009, about 2130 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N613FT, was substantially damaged following an engine fire on the runway at the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), Sanford, Florida. The airplane was registered to FIT Aviation LLC and operated by the Florida Institute of Technology. The commercial-rated flight instructor and one student were not injured. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight. The flight originated at Melbourne, Florida (MLB) about 2015.

The student pilot requested a stop-and-go landing and the flight was subsequently cleared for the option on runway 27R at SFB. The student used maximum wheel and aerodynamic braking to stop the airplane. After coming to a stop on the runway, the engine quit. The pilots contacted the tower to inform them of the situation. Four restart attempts were made by the instructor, with about 20 seconds allowed between attempts. After the last attempt, thick smoke was observed coming from the engine cowling. Flames were observed coming from the engine, and the instructor cut the fuel mixture to idle, took the fire extinguisher, and both pilots exited the airplane. The instructor attempted to put out the fire; however the halon extinguisher was inoperative. The pilots reported that there was a steady stream of fuel pouring out from under the engine cowling. The instructor reported that the incident may have been prevented by not attempting a fourth start attempt and having the airplane towed off the runway.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration examined the airplane and reported that there was extensive fire damage near the underside of the engine in the area of the induction system and carburetor. The firewall showed indications of heat deformation. Further examination revealed that the induction system air box appeared to be "blown apart from the inside out…" The inspector stated that the fire "appeared to have started near the air box on the bottom left of the engine and ignited the fuel that had over flowed into the air box."

The certificated flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single- and multi-engine land ratings. The student pilot held a student pilot certificate and was enrolled in the private pilot certificate program at the Florida Institute of Technology.

The airplane received an annual inspection on December 18, 2008. Total airframe time 14,512 hours and total time on the engine was 6,168 hours. The operator’s maintenance personnel reported that there were no recent problems with the airframe or engine.

The 2245 EDT weather observation for SFB included the following: surface winds from 310 degrees at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 72 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.14 inches of mercury.

The PA-28-161 Pilot's Information Manual addresses procedures for engine fire during start. Section 3, Emergency Procedures, section 3.7, states, "Engine fires during start are usually the result of overpriming. The first effort to extinguish the fire is to attempt an engine start in order to draw the excess fuel back into the induction system. If a fire is present before the engine has started, try to draw the fire back into the engine by moving the mixture control to idle cut-off, opening the throttle, turning OFF the electric fuel pump and fuel selector, while cranking the engine."

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