Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer, N3431A: Accident occurred June 06, 2012 in Bangor, Michigan

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA348
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, June 06, 2012 in Bangor, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/05/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-22-135, registration: N3431A
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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

On the day before the accident, the owner/pilot made a forced landing to a field due to a loss of engine power. No damage was incurred during that event. Examination of the airplane after the off-airport landing revealed that the gascolator screen was almost completely plugged by a flaky, shellac-type material. The airplane had a history of automotive fuel use, and the inspector who examined the airplane told the pilot that he should have a local mechanic do a thorough fuel system evaluation and flushing before further flight. He reminded the pilot that there were screens in the fuel tanks, carburetor, and in the belly sump that should be checked and cleaned. On the day of the accident flight, the pilot and a local mechanic added fuel to the right fuel tank and performed fuel flow tests. The pilot then attempted to take off, and the engine stopped producing power. The airplane impacted the ground in a left turn and nosed over. Examination of the airplane after the accident revealed that the carburetor and gascolator screens were 50 percent obstructed. Neither the pilot nor the mechanic indicated in their postaccident statements that the gascolator, carburetor, or fuel tank screens were checked or that the fuel system was flushed to remove the residual fuel system contaminants. Based on the available evidence, it is likely that the engine power loss was due to the obstruction of the fuel system screens, which prevented adequate fuel flow to the engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to properly service the fuel system, and subsequent decision to conduct the flight with known fuel system deficiencies, which led to the total loss of engine power.

On June 6, 2012, about 1015 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-22-135, N3431A received substantial damage when it impacted the ground and nosed over after it was unable to climb after takeoff from an unimproved field near Bangor, Michigan. The private pilot received serious injuries. The aircraft 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 for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for the South Haven Area Regional Airport (LWA), South Haven, Michigan.

On the day prior to the accident, June 5, 2012, the pilot was flying the airplane to LWA when he experienced a loss of engine power and executed a forced landing into a field. The airplane was not damaged during the off-airport landing. On the day of the accident, the pilot was attempting to take off from the same field in order to continue to LWA. The pilot reported that after takeoff, the engine stopped producing power and he was attempting to return to the field. The airplane was in a left turn when it struck the ground. The pilot reported that he had added fuel to the right fuel tank and accomplished fuel flow tests on the ground prior to the accident. He stated that the fuel flow from the left tank was not adequate, but flow from the right tank was. He stated that he ran the engine for about 20 minutes on the right tank at high power settings before the attempted flight.

A local mechanic who was a witness to the accident reported that the owner enlisted his help to rectify a fuel flow issue. He stated that on the morning of the accident, they added 10 gallons of fuel to the right fuel tank. They then removed the gascolator bowl and timed the fuel flow. The left tank took 7 minutes to flow one gallon of fuel and the right tank took 6 minutes to flow one gallon of fuel. They then performed a run-up to full power on both fuel tanks. He stated that the pilot then attempted to take-off. He said the airplane was slow to clear the ground and gain altitude. It then turned left and descended at which point the witnesses view was obstructed by terrain.

A postaccident examination of the airplane after the landing in the field on June 5, 2012, confirmed that the airplane was not damaged. The gascolator screen was found to be almost completely plugged by a flaky shellac type material. The owner reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that the airplane had a long history of auto fuel use and that he had been getting the shellac type material from the fuel sumps on the airplane. The inspector and the owner discussed that the owner would get a local mechanic and do a thorough fuel system evaluation and flushing before further flight. The inspector reminded the pilot that there were screens in the fuel tanks, carburetor, and in the belly sump that should be checked and cleaned. 

A second examination of the airplane after the accident on June 6, 2012 revealed that the gascolator and the carburetor inlet screens were about 50 percent restricted. 

Neither the pilot nor the mechanics report made mention of having performed a flushing of the fuel system or checking/cleaning of the fuel tank screens in the fuel tanks, carburetor, or gascolator.

Photo from Van Buren Co. Sheriff

Pilot William Lawson force landed this plane in Van Buren County, fixed it, then crashed it the next day. He was hospitalized for injuries.
 (June 6, 2012)

BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The same plane and pilot that force landed on Tuesday crashed on take-off Wednesday, injuring the 72-year-old pilot.

William Lawson of Decatur made an emergency landing in a Van Buren County corn field Tuesday afternoon, then went home to get tools to fix the aircraft before authorities arrived on the scene.

Lawson, who has had a license for 50 years, told them he was flying from Decatur to an airport in South Haven when the single-engine plane developed mechanical problems and started sputtering. The department said Lawson could see his destination several miles away, but landed in the filed because he didn't think the plane would make it.

He repaired the plane and on Wednesday tried to fly it out of the field. But deputies said the plane began sputtering and then stalled. He was only about 25 feet off the ground, and when he touched down, the small plane flipped onto its top.

Lawson was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment of a possible fracture and facial cuts.

The FAA will investigate the incidents.

  Regis#: 3431A        Make/Model: PA22      Description: PA-22 Tri-Pacer
  Date: 06/05/2012     Time: 1700

  Event Type: Incident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Unknown

  City: VAN BUREN TWP               State: MI   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Landing      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: DETROIT, MI  (GL23)                   Entry date: 06/06/2012 

Several calls about a “plane down” came to Van Buren County’s 911 just before noon Tuesday, but when police arrived at the scene … a newly planted corn field … on the southwest corner of 68th Street and C.R. 378, no pilot was to be found.

Police found him at his home, where he’d gone to pick up tools to repair the plane.

William Lawson, 72, told police he was flying a single engine 1953 Piper Tri-Pacer from a private airstrip in Decatur en route to South Haven Airport.

A mechanical problem occurred and the plane started sputtering. Lawson could see South Haven Airport about 5 miles away, but decided he couldn’t make it that far and chose the corn field for emergency landing. He circled the field twice to make sure he would be able to land without damage to the plane or himself.

FAA officials were contacted.

Lawson told police he’d been a licensed pilot for about 50 years.

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