Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Knowing When To Cancel

Don’t fly with a known equipment deficiency

In an engine test supervised by an FAA inspector, the engine wouldn’t run on the engine-driven fuel pump. When the electric fuel-boost pump was turned on, the engine started normally and ran without hesitation. The fuel pump was sent to Continental Engines for further examination—it couldn’t be rotated by hand. Inspection of the fuel pump vane cavity revealed rust and corrosion. After the cavity was rinsed with a mix of avgas and penetrating oil, the pump was able to rotate. It was reassembled for a functional test, and produced both low- and high-end pressures, as it was supposed to do. The engine had been overhauled two months before the accident. The fuel pump also was supposed to have been overhauled. At the time of the accident, the airplane had flown 12 hours since the annual inspection.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s decision to depart with a known engine deficiency, which resulted in a loss of power. Contributing to the accident was the loss of engine power due to the failure of the fuel pump.

A twin-engine Cessna 414 was damaged during a runway overrun at Butler County Airport in Butler, Pa. The commercial pilot and three passengers weren’t injured. The aircraft had arrived in Butler after a flight from Greenville, S.C.

The pilot told investigators that he overflew the airport in an attempt to determine which way the wind was blowing. He was unable to see the windsock or any other wind indicators.

With the landing gear in the down position, and at 150 knots airspeed, he entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for a landing on runway 8. While on the final leg of the approach, the pilot slowed the plane to 130 knots, and further slowed to 120 knots when he crossed the displaced threshold. He then reduced the throttles to idle and reported that the airspeed further decreased to 110 knots about 10 to 20 feet above the runway. The plane touched down smoothly within the first 200 feet of the runway. The pilot began to “work in the brakes,” but soon realized they weren’t functioning. The plane departed the end of the runway, sped down sloped terrain and stopped after hitting a fence.

The pilot reported that he made the landing with the flaps retracted because they were inoperative. An inspection revealed that the flap circuit breaker was tripped; once reset, any attempt to actuate the flaps resulted in the circuit breaker tripping again. Previously, the pilot had been told that the flap motor needed to be replaced, but he elected not to have the work done. The pilot had subsequently attended recurrency training, where he was instructed that the flaps “were not required.” Another individual who had flown the airplane advised the pilot that the brakes were “spongy” and that maximum braking effort couldn’t be obtained easily.

The C-414’s POH indicated that landings on hard-surface runways should be done with 45 degrees of flaps from a 107 mph (92-knot) indicated airspeed approach, using as little power as practicable.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s decision to conduct the flight with a known equipment deficiency.

A single-engine Cessna 182G impacted a levee during a forced landing after a loss of engine power near Tuckerman, Ark. The commercial pilot sustained minor injuries; his passenger was seriously injured. Investigators found no fuel in the airplane’s tanks, but there was blue streaking from the left fuel tank’s filler port to the trailing edge of the wing. The flight had departed from Sherman Army Air Field in Fort Leavenworth, Kans., and was headed for Newport, Ark.

Earlier in the day, the pilot made a fuel stop at Harrisonville, Mo. He told a lineman that the locking tabs were broken from the cap on the left main fuel tank. The lineman suggested that the pilot purchase a new fuel cap, but he didn’t do so. The plane was serviced with 46.39 gallons of 100LL fuel, and it departed for the 15-minute flight to Fort Leavenworth. After landing, the pilot purchased 27 gallons of 100LL fuel. Ground personnel reported to the pilot that the left main tank had a “bad fuel leak,” and the pilot stated that the cap was broken. The pilot was offered duct tape, and he taped the left main fuel tank filler cap with about two square feet of duct tape.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s operation of the airplane with a known deficiency, which resulted in fuel leakage and a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

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


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