Monday, January 02, 2012

Fleet 16B Finch II, N9753L: Accident occurred December 30, 2011 in Marion, Texas

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA127 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 30, 2011 in Marion, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/2013
Aircraft: FLEET FLEET 16B, registration: N9753L
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During the local flight, the airplane’s engine began to surge and then experienced a total loss of power. The pilot attempted a forced landing in a nearby field. However, during the forced landing, the airplane impacted a tree and subsequently came to rest inverted. The pilot reported that when he drained the fuel tank after the accident he found a piece of welding slag in the fuel line, which blocked the flow of fuel to the engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation as a result of a piece of metal in the fuel line, which blocked fuel flow to the engine.

On December 30, 2011, about 1400 central standard time, a Fleet 16B airplane, N9753L, experienced a loss of engine power while maneuvering near the Zuehl Airport (1TE4), Marion, Texas. During the forced landing, the airplane impacted a tree and sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot and passenger were not injured. The flight originated from 1TE4 about 1345.

The passenger reported that before the flight, he filled the airplane fuel tank with approximately 10 to 12 gallons of fuel. Shortly after takeoff, the passenger noticed that the fuel gauge, which was attached to the upper wing, “indicated between one quarter and one half tank of fuel.” During flight, the engine began to surge and then experienced a total loss of power. While approaching an open field for the forced landing, the airplane collided with a tree and subsequently impacted the ground and nosed over. The rudder and elevator were crushed and bent and the lower wing spar was broken. The pilot and passenger were able to exit the airplane unassisted.

The airplane was recovered for further examination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on January 6, 2012. The FAA inspectors examined the engine and the following was determined. There was fuel flow from the upper wing tank when the fuel selector valve was opened and the fuel flow stopped when the selector was moved to the OFF position. The fuel appeared to be 100 low lead aviation fuel with no contamination or water observed. The inspectors confirmed cylinder compression, valve train continuity, oil in the engine, and continuity of the throttle cables. When turned by hand the engine rotated smoothly; the left magneto, which had an impulse coupling, produced a spark on the aft sparkplug. The carburetor housing was broken and further inspection revealed no anomalies or contamination.

Further examination of the airplane by the pilot revealed a piece of welding slag blocking the fuel line. The pilot stated that he began to drain the fuel from upper wing tank; about a gallon of fuel drained before it stopped. The pilot ran a wire inside the fuel line and a piece of metal slag fell out. After the metal was taken out fuel began flowing again. The pilot stated that he previously had welding work done in the fuel tank.

Photo Credit:  Bob Thaxton
 Guadalupe County sheriff's deputies examine damage to an airplane that crashed Friday afternoon in a field off Gin Road south of the Zuehl Airfield. The pilot and a passenger walked away from the crash, escaping serious injury in the mishap.

ZUEHL - A pilot and his passenger escaped serious injury when a plane crashed Friday afternoon off Gin Road south of the Zuehl Airfield in western Guadalupe County.

The crash was reported at approximately 2:30 p.m., and first responders from the New Berlin Volunteer Fire Department were among the first emergency personnel to arrive at the site in a field on a farm on the south side of Gin Road.

Dave Caffey, a firefighter and paramedic with the New Berlin VFD, said witnesses heard an engine sputtering shortly before the aircraft went down. He said the pilot might have landed safely if the propeller had not dug into the ground and caused the plane to flip over onto its top.

Caffey said the pilot, a 66-year-old man with extensive flying experience, and his passenger, a young man who appeared to be in his 20s, were out of the aircraft and walking around when he arrived at the site.

The pilot did not appear to have suffered any serious injuries and signed a refusal declining to be transported by Schertz EMS.

Caffey described the aircraft as a biplane dating from the 1940s. The pilot's controls are in the rear of the plane and the front seat is for a passenger.

Caffey, himself a pilot, declined to speculate about what might have caused the motor, a seven-cylinder round engine, to malfunction. The pilot told Caffey that he had 10 gallons of fuel on board; however, there was no fire after the plane went down.

The crash was being investigated by state troopers, and Caffey said the National Transportation Safety Board probably would be notified and would conduct an investigation of the accident.