Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Setting The Selector

In some aircraft, you have to be a contortionist to see where the fuel-tank selector is pointing

Piper PA-44-180
On November 11, 2010, at about 6:05 p.m., a Piper PA44-180 Seminole being operated as an instructional flight crashed following a failure of the left engine shortly after takeoff from runway 10R at the Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), West Palm Beach, Fla. A VFR flight plan had been filed for the nighttime flight. The flight instructor, a commercial pilot and two passengers were killed. There was a post-crash fire. The airplane was en route to Melbourne, Fla. (MLB). The FAA reported that a female voice, later determined to be the CFI, transmitted during initial climb that they had an engine failure and "needed to turn around and land."

The controller cleared the flight to land "any runway." The CFI had 2,278 hours with 492 in multi-engine airplanes. The commercial pilot receiving instruction had 298 hours with about 47 in multi-engine airplanes.

The four-seat, low-wing, retractable gear, twin-engine airplane was manufactured in 2008. It was powered by two 180 hp engines. A 100-hour inspection had been performed on October 25, 2010, at an airframe/engines total time of 1,638.3 hours.

Weather at the time was VFR with scattered clouds at 6,000 feet, winds from 200 degrees at nine knots, and visibility 10 miles.

The airplane impacted taxiway hotel (H) on the airport in a nose-down, right wing low attitude. Investigation revealed that the left engine was not operating at impact. Also, the left propeller was not in the "feathered" position as called for in the emergency procedures for dealing with engine failure. The left fuel selector was found in the "off" position, one inch aft of the forward stop, and the right fuel selector was found in the "on" position.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of both the pilot and the flight instructor to ensure that the left fuel selector was in the "on" position for takeoff and their failure to follow proper procedures when the left engine lost power shortly after takeoff, resulting in an in-flight loss of control.


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