Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Buyer Beware

Whether it’s a new or used airplane, don’t rush when doing your prebuy inspection

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from the power transmission lines. Contributing to the accident were the loss of aircraft electrical power, diverted attention, and the night conditions.

Piper PA-32-300
The single-engine Piper PA-32-300 struck a transmission line and crashed during a night forced landing near Danville, Ark. The commercial pilot and both passengers were killed. The IFR flight was from Adams Field Airport, Little Rock, Ark., to Wiley Post Airport, Oklahoma City, Okla.

The airplane was cruising at 6,000 feet MSL when the pilot radioed ATC he had “a rough-running engine.” The pilot then radioed, “Mayday, going down, on fire.” The flight was cleared for a visual approach to the Danville Municipal Airport. It turned toward the airport, but contact was lost. The following morning, the burned-out wreckage was found 3.6 miles east of the airport.

The airplane was purchased by its new owners two days before the accident. A prebuy inspection was completed about two weeks before the accident. The inspecting mechanic noted “oil leak top of engine case.” There was no record of maintenance to deal with the leak.

An examination of the engine was conducted by the NTSB. A large hole was found on top of the engine case between the #4 and #6 cylinders. Evidence consistent with the lack of oil lubrication were noticeable on both the #4 and #6 cylinders. The #5 cylinder was found separated from its mount. The #5 connecting rod cap separated from the connecting rod and wasn’t recovered.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was failure of the #5 cylinder that resulted in oil starvation and the subsequent loss of engine power, and the pilot’s inability to see the transmission line during the forced landing.

Factors contributing to the accident were the dark night and the transmission line.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, N.Y. 10602-0831.


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