WPR11LA004
WPR11LA004

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 8, 2010, about 1145 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Beech A35, N8402A, lost engine power and crashed during a forced landing near Blue Diamond, Nevada. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot sustained serious injuries and the passenger was fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage to the firewall and fuselage. The cross-country personal flight departed Palm Springs, California, about 1000, with a planned destination of North Las Vegas, Nevada. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The airplane was being flown by the pilot, and the passenger was her husband, who was rated as a pilot, but did not have a current medical.

While on approach to land at North Las Vegas Airport (VGT), the airplane lost engine power, and the pilot attempted to land the airplane on Nevada State Road 159 near the town of Blue Diamond, approximately 16 miles southwest of the North Las Vegas Airport (13 miles west-southwest of McCarran International Airport).

The pilot told investigators the engine quit; she slowed the airplane down to 80 knots, and began to circle looking for a suitable landing site. She tried to switch the fuel selector to several positions in an attempt to get the engine to restart, but was unsuccessful.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a Beech A35, serial number D-1814. A review of the airplane’s logbooks revealed that the airplane had a total airframe time of 7,744.37 hours at the last annual inspection. The logbooks contained an entry for an annual inspection dated July 10, 2010.

The airplane was equipped with two main fuel tanks, one located in each wing. Each wing tank had a capacity of 20 gallons. This airplane was also equipped with a 29-gallon auxiliary fuel tank located under and behind the rear seat.

A review of the airplane’s airworthiness records showed a major repair and alteration was issued on May 8, 1957, to modify the factory auxiliary fuel tank to 29 gallons. The modification used the factory fuel connections. This installation was made for one airplane approval.

COMMUNICATIONS

A review of the radar data indicated the aircraft made a circular maneuver prior to entering the Class B airspace at Las Vegas (LAS), but there was no mention during any radio transmission made between LAS Approach and the female pilot of any problems with the airplane at that time.

The airplane had been cleared into Class B airspace, and was being directed by Las Vegas Approach along the west side of the Las Vegas area Class B airspace. According to radar/voice tapes, Las Vegas Approach radioed N8402A providing instructions to “resume your own navigation to North Las Vegas” two times, approximately 1 minute 17 seconds apart. There was no response from N8402A to the first call; the response to the second call was made by a male pilot to which he replied “we lost the engine.”

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector assigned as the accident coordinator responded to the accident site to examine the wreckage.

The airplane impacted a dirt embankment on the south side of the highway causing the airplane to veer to the right, subsequently ripping the left and right main gear off. The left main gear was found approximately 60 feet from the initial point of contact, and the right main gear was approximately 80 feet from the initial point of contact. The nose gear was found in a retracted position within the fuselage, with both nose gear doors found torn from the airplane.

The engine was partially separated from the fuselage with no obvious signs of pre-impact damage or component failure. The propeller blades were scuffed on the forward faces of both blades with both blades bent slightly aft. No signs of damage were noted to the blade tips or leading edges of the propeller blades that would have been consistent with the propeller blades striking the ground while under power. The propeller spinner was crushed on one side only.

Continuity of the flight controls was established between the ailerons and between each of the ruddervators. Due to the extensive damage to the lower section of the fuselage and to the control yoke and rudder pedals, the flight controls could not be moved from within the airplane. The wings flaps were noted as being in the fully retracted position.

The right wing tank appeared to be empty with no evidence of a breach in the tank. The auxiliary fuel tank located on the aft section of the cabin also appeared to be free of any damage. Due to the location of the tank and shape of the filler, the FAA inspector was not able to determine if any fuel was present in the tank. The left wing tank was noted as having fuel within 2 to 3 inches from the top of the filler opening. The sump for the right wing tank was accessible, and a small amount of blue fluid consistent with aviation grade gasoline was present. The sump for the left wing tank was not accessible; however, as previously noted, the tank was noted as almost full.

The fuel tank selector was found to be in a position to draw fuel from the right wing tank. It should be noted the fuel pump handle (wobble pump) was fully seated against the fuel selector housing and in the detent of the internal fuel selector valve.

The engine tachometer was noted as having an electrical display preventing noting the tachometer recording time. No mechanical Hobbs Meter was installed.

A pilot’s kneeboard was located in the airplane, and it was documentation from the accident flight including departure information, weather, ATIS information, radio frequencies, and it noted that the right fuel tank was selected at 10:00 AM; no other notation about fuel tank selection was found.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The pilot sustained serious injuries, was hospitalized, and subsequently released.

The passenger also sustained serious injuries, was hospitalized, but subsequently died on November 7, 2010.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

On October 15, 2010, investigators conducted an examination of the airplane concentrating on the fuel system. This examination was conducted at Lone Mountain Aviation located on the North Las Vegas airport.

Investigators were able to confirm that, with the fuel selector in the position noted during the on-scene accident investigation (right wing tank selected), fuel flow to the fuel selector would have been from the right wing tank. This was confirmed by blowing air back through the fuel line on the fire wall, and hearing the sound of air entering the right wing tank. The fuel selector was placed into the “Auxiliary” and “Left Wing Tank” positions. When the fuel selector was in the “Auxiliary” and “Left Wing Tank” positions, fuel (blue fluid consistent with aviation grade gasoline) dripped from the bottom of the fuel selector valve. Due to the leakage of fuel and the left wing tank still being full, the selector was returned to the “Right” setting to prevent further loss of fuel. The operation of the fuel selector appeared to be normal and positive detents could be felt in all four settings (“Auxiliary”, “Left Wing Tank”, “OFF” and “Right Wing Tank”) during operation of the valve.

The micro switch for the “Fuel Selector Not Engaged” light was not operational and no activation of the internal switch could be noted or be made by moving the spring steel actuating arm by hand.

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