Thursday, November 9, 2017

Grumman-Schweizer G-164A, N8875H, registered to and operated by Richter Aviation Inc: Accident occurred May 13, 2015 in Maxwell, Colusa County, California

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Sacramento, California

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Maxwell, CA
Accident Number: WPR15LA160
Date & Time: 05/13/2015, 0930 PDT
Registration: N8875H
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


Just after takeoff on the agricultural application flight, the commercial pilot was positioning the airplane to spray a rice field. About 200 ft above ground level, the pilot heard a loud pop, and the engine experienced a total loss of power. The pilot turned the airplane to land on a dirt road, but it was too narrow; the right main landing gear contacted mud on the side of the road, and the airplane subsequently nosed over and came to rest inverted. Recovery personnel reported no residual fuel on the ground around the accident site, and about one half gallon of fuel was recovered from the airplane.

The pilot stated that the airplane had not been refueled on the day of the accident and that he departed on the flight with less than a half tank of fuel.

The postaccident engine examination revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The loss of engine power was likely due to fuel exhaustion, and given that the loss of power occurred just after takeoff, it is likely that the pilot did not verify the amount of fuel onboard before departing on the flight. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper preflight inspection and fuel planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Use of equip/system - Pilot (Cause)
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information 

On May 13, 2015, about 0930 Pacific daylight time, a restricted category Grumman Aircraft ENG COR-Schweizer G164A airplane, N8875H, experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff, and the pilot subsequently made an emergency landing on a dirt road near Maxwell, California. Richter Aviation Inc., operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an aerial application flight. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that departed from a private airstrip. No flight plan had been filed.

In the pilot's written statement, he reported that the airplane seemed to function normally; good magneto check before takeoff and no indications of any problems. About 200 feet above the ground he heard a loud pop, and then the engine quit. He made a right 90o turn to land on a dirt road. The road was too narrow, and the right wheel went over the edge into the rice field and got stuck in mud, which caused the airplane to slow down and flip over onto its back.

During an interview with an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot reported that when he took off, on the day of the accident, there was less than half a tank of fuel on board.

The operator reported that the day before, the left magneto had been replaced, and that the airplane had not been refueled following the maintenance. The operator also stated that the pilot started flying at 0900 the day of the accident for the purpose of spraying a pesticide on the rice fields.

According to a responding deputy from the Colusa County Sheriff's Department, there was no evidence of fuel, or the smell of fuel, at the accident site.

An FAA inspector reported that during the recovery of the airplane, maintenance personnel recovered ½ gallon of fuel out of the airplane. Maintenance personnel stated that there was no fuel smell, or residual fuel found on the ground. The airplane holds 80 gallons of fuel and burns about 40 gallons of fuel per hour.

The loader reported that on the day of the accident the airplane was not refueled.

During the postaccident engine examination, the FAA inspector stated that the engine turned freely without any binding, and about a 1/3-cup of fuel was recovered from the gascolator. Compression was obtained in all the cylinders except the #1 cylinder which had sustained impact damage. The left magneto produced a spark when rotated however, the right magneto had sustained impact damage and could not be functionally tested. 

History of Flight

Initial climb
Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)

Landing-landing roll
Off-field or emergency landing
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 54, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Center
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/01/2014
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 15744 hours (Total, all aircraft), 13820 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N8875H
Model/Series: G 164A
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1975
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 1556
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/29/2015, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 37 Hours
Engines:  Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 10031.6 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt and Whitney
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: R1340-AN1
Rated Power: 600 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: OVE, 194 ft msl
Observation Time: 0853 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 40 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 60°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 6°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots, 130°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Maxwell, CA (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Maxwell, CA (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0900 PDT
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  39.226111, -122.220556 (est)

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