Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Great Places Not To Have An Accident

Don’t spend so much time looking at scenery that you neglect to look at flight necessities

Montauk Airport (MTP)
Montauk Point, N.Y., is at the eastern end of Long Island, 125 miles from New York City. It’s a popular vacation and day-trip destination for folks willing to put up with the predictable traffic jams on the Long Island Expressway and local roads. Pilots can take advantage of an uncontrolled airport that’s right next to a beach. Years ago, the airport’s operators ran an old fire engine as a shuttle for pilots and their passengers between the terminal and the sand dunes at the end of the runway. A short hike over the dunes, and you were on a relatively private beach. Nowadays, they use a van for the shuttle service.

A pilot and two friends from the New York area decided it was a lot easier to fly into Montauk than go over the road for an evening fishing trip on a chartered boat. They arrived at the airport at about 5:45 p.m., went fishing and returned to the airport at around 1 a.m. The twin-engine Piper PA-34-200T they were using crashed into a pond near the airport shortly after taking off. All three on board were killed. According to the commercial pilot’s logbook, he had about 901 hours with about 100 hours at night. He had 472 hours in type. Fueling records indicated that the airplane had full fuel at the beginning of the flight to Montauk, and would have had more than enough for the return flight. Weather recorded at the airport after the estimated time of the accident showed the wind was calm. Sky condition wasn’t recorded at the airport, but was clear at an airport about 20 miles away.

Wreckage examination failed to disclose any evidence of engine or airplane systems problems. Parts from the flap mechanism indicated that full flaps, 40 degrees, had been deployed, but whether that was the position of the flaps at takeoff could not be verified. The maximum use of flaps during takeoff as recommended by the manufacturer was 25 degrees.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was a loss of control during climb for undetermined reasons.

Catalina Airport (AVX)
Catalina Island is off the coast of Southern California, about 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles. The island is a vacation and day-trip destination with one city, Avalon, and an unincorporated town, Two Harbors. A private pilot and two passengers flew to the Avalon Airport from Long Beach, Calif., for sightseeing and lunch. They used a Piper PA-28-181. The pilot told investigators that he believed there were 34 gallons of fuel on board when leaving Long Beach. He also told investigators that he didn’t look in the airplane’s two wing tanks before departing for the return flight to Long Beach. After takeoff, there was a total loss of engine power and the pilot tried to make a forced landing on runway 22. The airplane struck the ground short of the runway and was substantially damaged. The pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries while the second passenger was seriously injured.

The airplane’s owner told the Safety Board that when the airplane was last refueled, it had 34 gallons on board, but it had been flown for 2.1 hours before the accident pilot rented it. According to the airplane’s recording hour meter, the accident pilot flew it for a total of 1.4 hours, making a total of 3.5 hours since its last refueling. The owner expressed the opinion that the pilot had experienced fuel exhaustion.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight and failure to refuel the airplane prior to takeoff.


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