CEN13LA365
CEN13LA365

On June 19, 2013, about 1418 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32-301T, N4296T, experienced a brake fire during taxi for takeoff at Capital Region International Airport (LAN), Lansing, Michigan. The pilot did not release the parking brake prior to taxi. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings. The private pilot was uninjured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that was originating at the time of the accident and was destined to Kirsch Municipal Airport (IRS), Sturgis, Michigan.

The pilot stated that he taxied the airplane from the ramp to runway 28L via taxiway Bravo. He did not notice anything wrong at first, but he began to perceive the need for more power to maintain taxi speed. He contacted the air traffic control tower and obtained permission to shut down and exit the airplane on the taxiway to investigate the problem. He noticed a significant amount of black smoke from within both main wheel fairings and flames from beneath the left main wheel fairing at the base of the left main tire. He realized at that moment that heat from an engaged parking brake was the likely cause. He ran around to the airplane cabin for a fire extinguisher and tried to disengage the brake, but it would not move from the engaged position. In wiggling the brake handle back and forth, he only succeeded in engaging it further. He thought he had extinguished the fire. He then noticed flames beneath the wheel fairing on the right, which he extinguished. The amount of smoke emanating from both wheel fairings became substantially greater, and he felt the tires were still burning from within the fairings. He ran back to the cockpit and called the air traffic tower for help. By the time he had walked about twenty feet from the plane, he looked back to see that flames had engulfed both main wheel fairings and were lapping at the underside of both wings. He began to run, fearing an explosion. Airport rescue and firefighting arrived within about 30 seconds and quickly extinguished the fire.

The pilot stated that the parking hand brake was partially engaged by the staff at a fixed base operator after towing the airplane from the shop to the ramp tie-down area the preceding evening. He said that he did not recognize that the parking brake was set before beginning to taxi.

The pilot stated that the accident could have been prevented through "better use of checklist to include the parking brake for engagement status prior to taxi."

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