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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN15FA060
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 30, 2014 in Boonville, MO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/08/2017
Aircraft: BELLANCA 17-30A, registration: N6629V
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 3 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The commercial pilot was on a cross-country flight when the airplane encountered deteriorating weather conditions. A surviving passenger reported that the pilot decided to divert to a nearby airport. The airplane experienced a loss of engine power in the airport traffic pattern shortly after the pilot extended the landing gear during the base-to-final turn. The pilot was able to restore engine power briefly by advancing the throttle, but the engine quickly experienced a total loss of power. The passenger stated that the airplane entered an aerodynamic stall about 250 ft above the ground. The airplane subsequently impacted terrain in a near-level attitude. The pilot likely failed to maintain adequate airspeed following the loss of engine power, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall at a low altitude.
A postaccident examination did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal engine operation; however, the right main fuel tank was void of any usable fuel, and the left main fuel tank contained about 1.5 gallons of usable fuel. Additionally, no fuel was recovered from the supply line connected to the fuel manifold valve, and only trace amounts of fuel were recovered from the engine-driven fuel pump outflow line. A first responder reported that the main fuel selector was positioned to draw fuel from the auxiliary fuel tanks. Although placarded for use during level flight only, both auxiliary fuel tanks contained sufficient fuel to maintain coverage over their respective outlet ports during maneuvering flight, and would have provided fuel to the engine. As such, it is likely that the main fuel selector was positioned to draw fuel from the right main fuel tank when the airplane initially experienced a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. The pilot then likely switched to the right auxiliary fuel tank while attempting to restore engine power; however, there was likely insufficient time and altitude to re-establish fuel flow to the engine.
Although the airplane had experienced an alternator malfunction during the previous flight, a possible charging system failure would not have affected engine operation during the accident flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack, and an aerodynamic stall at a low altitude. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s improper fuel management.