Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Light-Sport Safety Record


Tracking 2009 incidents


A high-wing LSA experienced a total loss of engine power in cruise flight near Okeechobee, Fla. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The private pilot had minor injuries. The flight had originated from Okeechobee County Airport.

The pilot told investigators he was climbing out at less than 1,250 feet MSL at full power, when he heard a grinding noise followed by a total loss of engine power. He saw there was a pasture straight ahead and decided to try to land there. After flaring the airplane, it touched down hard in the soft sandy soil, bounced and touched down again. The main landing gear sank in the sand, and the airplane nosed over inverted.

About 10 gallons of fuel were removed from the fuel tanks. The aircraft was moved to a repair facility where the engine was tested, no problems apparent. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was a total loss of engine power during initial climb for undetermined reasons.

A high-wing LSA was being used for a demonstration flight in Oshkosh, Wis. The instructor pilot reported that, during preflight, she looked at the fuel-quantity tube between the seats, and it indicated half full, or about 11 gallons of fuel. After approximately 30 minutes, the aircraft was returning to the airport when the engine stopped. The engine was restarted, but it stopped again about one minute later. The engine stopped and was restarted about five times. The pilot executed a forced landing to a field, and the airplane nosed over during the landing roll.

Inspection of the fuel system revealed that it was empty. When fuel was added, the engine ran normally. The inspection of the fuel-quantity tube revealed that it was “discolored,” and that there was a crease in the tube making it appear that there was a half tank of fuel. The fuel-quantity gauge on the instrument panel operated normally.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the instructor pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection. Contributing to the accident was the creased fuel-quantity tube.

A pilot and his grandson were on board a low-wing LSA at Lake Wales Airport in Florida. The pilot was using runway 18, a turf runway that was 2,313 feet long by 50 feet wide and sloped down toward the middle. The soil was soft. A witness reported that the airplane contacted the ground about 1,600 feet after its liftoff point, and again about 2,500 feet from the point of initial takeoff. The right wing hit a tree, then the airplane flipped and came to rest inverted. Both occupants got out before a fire erupted.

The pilot reported that the engine was operating properly and that there were no preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions. When asked how this accident could have been prevented, the pilot said that he should have aborted the takeoff when he touched down the first time after the liftoff.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control and failure to maintain clearance from trees during initial climb.



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