Thursday, January 22, 2015

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N4666R: Accident occurred January 20, 2015 near Helena Regional Airport (KHLN), Montana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA087
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 20, 2015 in Helena, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/23/2017
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-140, registration: N4666R
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 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.

The private pilot reported that a preflight inspection and engine run-up revealed no anomalies; however, during the initial climb after takeoff, the engine was not developing full power. The pilot initiated a shallow left turn back to the runway, but the airplane was not able to maintain altitude or airspeed and subsequently impacted a house. 

A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation, and the reason for the loss of engine power could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
Loss of engine power after takeoff for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination did not reveal any evidence of an anomaly that would have precluded normal operation.


The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:  
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office:  FSDO-05; Helena, Montana 

Aviation Accident Factual Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Docket And Docket Items -  National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N4666R

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA087 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 20, 2015 in Helena, MT
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-140, registration: N4666R
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 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.

On January 20, 2015, at 1220 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N4666R, experienced a loss of engine power during takeoff from the Helena Regional Airport (HLN), Helena, Montana, and subsequently impacted a shed and a house. The flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The private pilot was not injured; the passenger/owner sustained minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage throughout its structure. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that was destined for Missoula, Montana. No flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that he performed a thorough preflight inspection, which included checking the flight controls, and fuel and fuel sumps; no discrepancies were noted. After the engine started, and while it was warming up, he contacted ground control for a clearance to taxi to the active runway for departure. The ground controller cleared him to taxi the airplane to runway 27, where he commenced with an engine run-up. During the takeoff roll, the airplane rotated at 65 mph. During the climb out, he stated that it was quiet; the engine was not developing full power. The pilot stated that there was no safe place to land straight ahead, and as the engine was still running, he decided to turn back for the airport. The pilot stated that they were about 350-400 feet above the ground, and the engine was developing 2,300 rpm when he made a shallow left turn to return to the airport. The airplane could not maintain altitude or airspeed, and it collided with a house.

The owner/passenger reported that he purchased the airplane about 2 weeks prior to the accident. An annual inspection had taken place in August 2014. On January 16, 2015, the owner called Executive Aviation, a fixed based operator (FBO), and requested that the airplane be topped off with aviation fuel; the airplane was refueled with 26.3 gallons of fuel with the majority of the fuel placed in the right fuel tank. The owner stated that the airplane had been tied down outside on the tarmac since August and had accrued about 2.19 hours since the annual inspection.

An officer from the Helena Police Department reported that the airplane struck power lines, a tree, a propane tank, and came to rest in a shed and adjacent house.

The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector reported that both of the airplane's wings had separated from the airframe. Both wings' fuel tanks were breached in the accident sequence, blue colored liquid was near the right wing pooled in the snow.

An engine inspection was performed on April 28, 2015, at Helena Aircraft, under the supervision of an FAA inspector. A visual inspection of the engine revealed no obvious damage to the engine. 

The engine remained attached to the engine mount, and the airframe. The fuel strainer screen, electric fuel pump screen, and the air filter contained no obstructions. The top spark plugs were removed, and manual rotation of the engine produced thumb compression in all cylinders in firing order. The magneto switches were turned on, and the spark plug leads produced spark at each cylinder when the engine was manually rotated; magneto-to-engine timing was also established and within manufacturer specification limits. The spark plugs were placed on a spark plug test bench, the top No. four, and bottom No. two did not fire.

The carburetor functionally checked, and appeared to function normally when the throttle and mixture were manipulated. The carburetor was removed with partial soot identified in the throat area. The accelerator pump functioned properly; however, the retaining cotter pin was not present. The carburetor bowl was empty.

The fuel selector was selected to the right fuel tank inside the cockpit. The right main fuel tank filler port was placarded to allow auto gas; there was no fuel inside the fuel tank.

A detailed report is attached to the factual docket for this accident.

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA087
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 20, 2015 in Helena, MT
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-140, registration: N4666R
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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 January 20, 2015, at 1220 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N4666R, experienced a loss of engine power during takeoff from the Helena Regional Airport (HLN), Helena, Montana, and impacted a shed and a house. The private pilot was not injured, the passenger/owner sustained minor injuries; there were no ground injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that was destined for Missoula, Montana. No flight plan had been filed.

According to the owner of the airplane, he had purchased the airplane about 2 weeks prior to the accident. The owner reported that the annual inspection had taken place in August 2014. On January 16, 2015, the owner called Executive Aviation, a fixed based operator (FBO), and requested that the airplane be topped off with aviation fuel; the airplane was refueled with 26.3 gallons of fuel. The owner stated that the airplane had been tied down on the tarmac since August and had accrued about 2.19 hours since the annual inspection. He reported that the preflight inspection and run-up seemed normal. The airplane rotated at 65 miles per hour (mph), and during the climb out, the engine started to "sag, until nothing." The engine had been running and then quit. He stated that the pilot attempted to maneuver away from houses, but they were headed toward the ground.

According to the pilot, he performed a thorough preflight inspection, which included checking the flight controls, and fuel and fuel sumps; no discrepancies were noted. They turned on the engine and while it was warming up, he contacted ground control for a clearance to taxi to the active runway for departure. The ground controller cleared him to taxi the airplane to runway 27, where he commenced with an engine run-up. The pilot reported no problems with the run-up. He stated that the airplane rotated at 65 mph. During the climb out, he stated that it was quiet; the engine was not developing full power. The pilot stated that there was no safe place to land straight ahead, and as the engine was still running, he decided to turn back for the airport. The pilot stated that they were about 350-400 feet above the ground and the engine was developing 2,300 rpms when he made a shallow left turn to return to the airport. According to the pilot, the airplane could not maintain altitude or airspeed, and it impacted a house.

An officer from the Helena Police Department reported that the airplane struck power lines, a tree, a propane tank, and came to rest in a shed and adjacent house.

The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector reported that both of the airplane's wings had separated from the airframe.



"All I wanted to do was try to land it in a fashion that we survived," describes East Missoula pilot Robert Brunson two days after the small plane he was piloting lost power shortly after takeoff in Helena and crash landed, hitting a house. "And evidently we did."


 Brunson describes the flight path he tried to take the plane on as he lost power shortly after takeoff Tuesday. Despite hitting a power pole and crashing into a house, Brunson and his passenger, Duane Felstet of Frenchtown, were both able to walk away from the crash with only minor injuries. 


Some guys have all the luck. 

Duane Felstet, 78, and Robert Brunson, 75, walked away as survivors this week after Felstet's 1966 Piper PA-28 Cherokee lost power, bounced off a telephone pole, and crashed into a Helena home.

Not only did they survive, but the two friends were relatively unscathed.

"Pretty lucky would be an understatement," Felstet said Thursday from his home in Frenchtown. "I feel extremely fortunate and I am sure the pilot does, too."

Aside from a few lacerations, a few more bruises and an injured elbow, the pair are doing all right – now safe on the ground.

Brunson, the pilot, received a few more stitches than he cares to admit, while Felstet went under the knife Thursday to repair a chipped elbow cap.

"We are very fortunate," Felstet said. "We took off from the airport in Helena. We took off and then we got off the ground and the engine started to lose power. It continued to lose power until it finally quit."

That was in midair, approximately 200 feet off the ground, when Brunson realized he was running "out of altitude, airspeed and ideas at the same time."

But the longtime pilot said he wasn't afraid. In fact, the only thing he cared about was flying the small plane, and he was determined to get it back to the airport.

They spiraled down into the neighborhood, eventually hitting a pole and crashing into a residence – missing their target by two short city blocks.

"'Please, no fire,'" Felstet said he thought as he opened the only door and scrambled to get far away from the aircraft he had only a few moments before purchased.

"That's what we were concerned about because we had landed in a residential area close to a house," he said.

A woman and her two dogs were inside the home, but they weren't injured in the crash. The plane damaged the master bedroom and the basement, and the woman and her boyfriend are in the process of moving out until the damage can be fixed.  

***

It was far from Brunson's first time flying and he swears it won't be his last. The East Missoula man has been flying since 1974, and Tuesday started as any other routine flight.

Felstet, who is building his own plane and learning how to fly, asked Brunson to come with him to Helena and fly his recently purchased plane home for him.

The plane passed all the routine inspections every pilot goes through before firing up the aircraft. It even passed its official inspection last August. After Felstet signed the check, the plan was to practice a few touch-and-gos to make sure the plane was up to snuff before flying it over MacDonald Pass.

"We wanted to make sure it flew properly, but evidently it didn't," Brunson said from his home.

Sam, a Chihuahua-dachshund mix wearing a flashy bomber jacket, sat next to him on an easy chair, snoring, as he calmly recalled the sequence of events.

It's not clear what caused the crash, but both men said they inexplicably lost engine power.

"I could speculate until the cows come home, but it wouldn't be worth it," Brunson said.

If they were scared as they tumbled from the sky in a small airplane, the two men aren't letting it show.

Brunson said he and his pilot friends will continue to fly all over Montana, Idaho and Nevada to go out to eat or visit a museum. As a "fair-weather" pilot, he flies a Cessna 172. And once Felstet finishes building his own plane, he'll be welcome to join the group – and at a yearly party for pilots who survive crashes.  

After all, as Felstet explained, it is much safer than traveling in your automobile.

Story and photos:  http://missoulian.com













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