WPR14LA099A
WPR14LA099A

On January 17, 2014, at 1639 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA 24-250, N6570P, struck a taxiing Cessna 172N, N737CL, following a loss of engine power during takeoff from Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California. The Piper airplane was registered to 6570P LLC and operated by the pilot as a personal cross-country flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The Cessna airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by Nice Air as an instructional flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Neither the private pilot in the Piper, nor the flight instructor (CFI) and student pilot in the Cessna were injured; both airplanes sustained substantial damage. The Piper had a planned destination of Sonoma Skypark Airport, Sonoma, California; The Cessna had just landed after a local flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plans had been filed.

The pilot of the Piper stated that this was the first time the airplane had been flown since October 2013, and that it had been sitting on the ramp outside during that time. He performed a preflight inspection, but did not sump the fuel tanks. He confirmed that the main fuel tanks were full with fuel from the year prior, and that the fuel selector valves were set to the main fuel tanks. Following takeoff from runway 31R, he retracted the landing gear, and as the airplane reached an altitude of about 300 to 400 feet above ground level, the engine began to "sputter" with a corresponding partial loss of power. He cycled the throttle control with no change, and initiated a right turn in an effort to return to the airport. As the airport came into view he did not have sufficient altitude to land on a runway, so aimed the airplane for a taxiway. The airplane landed on the taxiway with the landing gear retracted and slid across the surface, striking the tailcone of the taxing Cessna.

The CFI in the Cessna stated that they had just landed on runway 31L, and were taxing north on taxiway Z. He observed the Piper airplane takeoff, and could see that it was having difficulty maintaining altitude. It turned right and back towards the airport, and looked like it was going to collide with a hangar to the northeast. The airplane then turned again, and was now flying directly towards him. He pushed the engine throttle control fully forward in an attempt to get out of the way, but the airplane collided with the right side of their tailcone.

The Piper was examined by an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the day following the accident. He reported that both main fuel tanks were full with fuel, and that the auxiliary tip-tanks were empty. Blue colored fuel was present in the belly-mounted fuel strainer, both firewall-mounted electrically driven fuel pumps, and the carburetor bowl. He did not observe any water contamination in the fuel.

The NTSB investigator-in-charge performed a follow-up examination of the engine and fuel system. The fuel lines were continuous and clear from the main tanks through to the carburetor, and both the screens within the fuel strainer and electrically driven fuel pumps were free of debris. The main fuel tanks and left tip tank fuel cap seals were pliable and free of cracks and fitted firmly in place at their filler necks. The right tip tank cap was loose within the filler neck, and could be easily removed when in the locked position.

The engine sustained minimal damage during the accident sequence. All engine controls were continuous from the control arms through to their respective cabin controls, and moved smoothly through full range of travel when operated. The induction air lines were free of obstruction. The oil sump contained about 9 quarts of oil when viewed utilizing the dipstick. The top spark plugs were removed, and examined. Their electrodes remained mechanically undamaged, coated in light grey deposits, and displayed normal-to short service life wear signatures when compared with the Champion Spark Plugs AV-27 Check-A-Plug chart. Visual inspection of the combustion chambers was accomplished through the spark plug bores utilizing a borescope; there was no evidence of foreign object damage and all combustion surfaces exhibited light grey deposits consistent with normal operation.

Further examination did not reveal any anomalies with the engine that would have precluded normal operation.

Two engine test runs were performed with the main fuel tanks selected, for a total running time of 5 minutes. The engine started within 5 seconds, and operated smoothly from idle through to a maximum speed of 1,800 rpm. Damage to the propeller and engine mount prevented a test at maximum rpm. Both the fuel and oil pressures remained at their nominal values throughout the test, and a magneto check resulted in the appropriate speed drop.

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