On March 4, 2011, about 1130 eastern standard time, a Beech C23 Sundowner, N6015F, was destroyed following an in-flight fire and emergency landing after takeoff from West Georgia Regional Airport (CTJ), Carrollton, Georgia. The certificated flight instructor (CFI) and private-rated pilot receiving instruction were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed CTJ about 1125. The instructional flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The CFI stated that the purpose of the flight was to pick up the airplane after the completion of an annual inspection. He brought the student along to conduct training on the return flight.

No anomalies were noted during a preflight inspection of the airplane. The CFI stated that, during the engine start, they observed that the fuel pressure gauge indicated zero, but that the engine started and ran normally, and no anomalies were observed during the takeoff or initial climb.

According to the CFI, they departed CTJ under visual flight rules (VFR) and intended to obtain an IFR clearance after takeoff. While communicating with air traffic control (ATC), about 2,000 feet mean sea level, and about 3 miles east of CTJ, the engine began to run roughly, and smoke was observed coming from under the cowling. The pilots turned back towards the airport, and announced to ATC that they would be returning to CTJ.

The CFI performed a visual approach to runway 17, and stated that there was a significant amount of smoke in the cockpit. After landing, both pilots egressed the airplane, and called emergency services, the airplane's owner, and ATC by telephone to notify them of the accident.

The pilot receiving instruction provided a written statement, and his account of events was consistent with that of the CFI.

A witness stated that he saw the airplane about 20 feet above the runway, with the engine running, as it trailed smoke and flames.

The CFI held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine land. He held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine, multiengine, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first class medical certificate was issued November 8, 2010. The pilot reported 3,500 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,200 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The pilot receiving instruction held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued August 4, 2010. He reported 63 total hours flight experience, all of which were in the accident airplane make and model.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1979. The airplane’s maintenance records revealed that the airplane had accrued 6,132.8 total aircraft hours as of its most recent annual inspection, which was completed March 1, 2011. The entries annotated that run-up checks were completed and that no leaks were noted.

The 1137 weather observation at CTJ included an overcast ceiling at 2,300 feet, visibility 10 miles, winds from 140 at 10 knots, gusting to 21 knots, temperature 12 degrees C, dewpoint 7 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.38 inches of mercury.

Photographs of the airplane provided by an FAA inspector revealed that the airplane's engine compartment received significant fire damage. The instrument panel, cockpit, cabin area, and right wing were consumed by fire. The inboard section of the left wing out to the landing gear was also destroyed by fire.

A detailed examination of the wreckage performed by an FAA inspector revealed that the fuel line from the electric fuel boost pump to the carburetor was disconnected. Closer examination revealed melted metal and soot accumulated on the threads of the male fitting of the pump, and on the threads of the female b-nut fitting of the fuel line, consistent with the line being disconnected prior to the fire. The fuel line was in close proximity to the carburetor fuel strainer that would routinely be removed during an annual inspection.

According to the inspector, a t-fitting on the line routed fuel to the fuel pressure indicator. With the affected line disconnected, fuel pressure would not register on the gauge, but the engine would continue to operate.

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