WPR12LA178
WPR12LA178

On April 21, 2012, at 1717 Pacific daylight time, N3862C, a Hawker Beechcraft A36TC, registered to Hermiston Aviation Inc. and operated by the pilot collided with terrain short of the runway at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport, Pendleton, Oregon. The commercial pilot sustained serious injuries and the two passengers were not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

According to emergency response personnel, the pilot had departed Pendleton and radioed to the air traffic control tower controller that one of the airplane's fuel caps was not secured. The pilot was returning to the airport when the airplane impacted terrain short of runway 16.

The pilot stated that the airplane had been refueled prior to the flight. It was a warm day with the tank full of fuel and the heat resulted in fuel draining from the vent. The pilot opened the fuel cap to aid in removing excess fuel from the tank by using the drain. Upon departure, the left wing fuel cap departed from the fuel tank. As the pilot returned to land, he did not maintain an appropriate glide path during final approach and the airplane collided with terrain on the approach end of runway 16. The pilot indicated there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures during the flight, and the engine continued to operate until impact with the terrain.

Post accident examination of the airplane revealed that the pilot's shoulder harness separated during the accident sequence resulting in serious injuries. The shoulder harness was dated September of 1980. According to AC 43-13-1B, Acceptable Methods, Techniques, and Practices - Aircraft Inspection and Repair, "The webbing of safety belts, even when mildew-proofed, is subject to deterioration due to constant use, cleaning, and the effects of aging. Fraying of belts is an indication of wear, and such belts are likely to be unairworthy because they can no longer hold the minimum required tensile load." The airplane had undergone an annual inspection in the month prior to the accident.

Restraint system testing used by Nascar shows that restraint system webbing in direct Florida sunlight is reduced by 50 percent in 11 months. In Nascar, restraint systems are replaced every two years to ensure reliability.

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