Pilot error is the most common cause of crashes of light planes, but in the case of a Piper PA-28 that landed long and went through a fence two years ago in Upstate New York, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the primary cause was someone else’s mistake.
The takeoff of the PA-28-161 Warrior on October 4, 2020, seemingly started without any issue as the aircraft rolled down the runway at Oswego County Airport (KFZY) in Fulton, New York. That is until shortly after liftoff when the windscreen became covered with oil.
The pilot attempted to return to the airport and land on the departure runway. However, according to the NTSB analysis, the aircraft touched down more than halfway down the runway where the pilot was unable to stop the aircraft, overrunning the runway, striking a chain link fence. This caused substantial damage to the airplane and minor injuries to the pilot.
Examination of the engine found that the crankshaft expansion plug dislodged. The expansion plug was recently installed during maintenance that occurred three days before to the accident. The mechanic who performed the repairs said that he installed the crankshaft plug using a procedure that he has utilized in the past, which included what the NTSB called the “unconventional” use of a ball-peen hammer to seat the plug instead of the recommended procedures and special tools that were specified by the engine manufacturer.
The NTSB’s probable cause for the accident was listed as “The mechanic’s improper maintenance, which resulted in the crankshaft expansion plug dislodging in flight and a subsequent forced landing.”