Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Air Tractor AT-602, N653LA, registered to and operated by Central Farmers Cooperative d/b/a Central Farmers Flying Service: Accident occurred April 21, 2017 in Vidrine, Louisiana

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Air Tractor, Inc; Olney, Texas 

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

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

Registered Owner: Central Farmers Flying Service

Operator: Central Farmers Flying Service

http://registry.faa.gov/N653LA

Location: Vidrine, LA
Accident Number: CEN17LA165
Date & Time: 04/21/2017, 1300 CDT
Registration: N653LA
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 602
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

Analysis 

The pilot was conducting agricultural spray operations in a turbine-powered airplane. During turns, he noticed that the fuel pressure varied between 19 and 20 lbs per square inch, but otherwise it appeared normal. During a subsequent turn, the engine lost power. The pilot turned on the fuel boost pump and engine ignitor, but the engine did not respond, so he conducted a force landing to a rice field. During the landing, the airplane impacted several levees, and the main landing gear were torn off; the airplane subsequently came to a stop on its belly.

The pilot reported that he looked into each wing fuel tank and that fuel was visible in each tank. Two witnesses also looked into each tank and reported seeing between about 3 and 4 inches of fuel in each tank. They added that the tanks were breached and leaking fuel. The responding Federal Aviation Administration inspector reported that the tanks were empty when he arrived on scene, but it appeared that the tanks had been breached, and fuel had leaked onto the ground.

The airplane was disassembled and transported to a repair facility. An examination of the airplane revealed fuel in the airframe filter and engine high-pressure canisters. About 1 quart of fuel was drained from the header tank. No contaminants were found in the fuel.

The fuel flow meter displayed 52.1 gallons for fuel remaining and 157 gallons used. The flow meter does not have a fuel level sensing capability but subtracts the fuel used from what the user (pilot) input into the meter. The flow meter was programmed to 209 gallons at the last refueling or instrument reset. Given the pilot may have reset the meter during the last refuel, the meter would have registered a full fuel load even if the airplane had not received a full fuel load; thus, the 52.1 gallons remaining would not have been accurate.

The engine was separated from the airframe and sent to overhaul/repair facility. The engine was placed in a test cell and started and ran with no anomalies noted. The reason for the loss of power was not determined. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The total loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because an examination of the engine and a test run did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Findings

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

Factual Information 

On April 21, 2017, about 1300 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT602 agricultural airplane, N653LA, conducted a forced landing near Vidrine, Louisiana. The pilot was not injured and the airplane was substantially damaged during the landing. The airplane was registered to and operated by Central Farmers Cooperative dba Central Farmers Flying Service under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time.

The pilot reported that he was conducting spray operations, adding that during turns, the fuel pressure would vary from 19 to 20 psi. Even though he hadn't seen the variance before, he thought the it appeared normal. Then during a turn, the engine lost power. He turned on the [fuel] boost pump, and engine ignitor, but the engine did not restart. The pilot then conducted a forced landing in a rice field.

During the landing, the airplane impacted several levees. The airplane's main landing gear were torn off during the landing, and the airplane came to a stop on its belly. The pilot then looked in the fuel tanks and reported that fuel was visible in both left and right fuel tanks. Two other people who were assisting the pilot, who arrived on scene, reported there was 3 to 4 inches of fuel in each tank, and fuel was leaking from the tanks.

The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector noted substantial damage to the airplane's left and right wings. He added that the fuel tanks were empty when he arrived, but it appeared that both tanks had been breached and leaked their contents on the ground.

The airplane was partially dismantled, including removal of the wings, for recovery and then transported to a repair facility. An examination was then conducted by the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge and a technical representative from the airframe manufacturer.

The engine fuel lines, including the Py line, were checked and there were no apparent damage or leaks in the lines. The airframe fuel filter, located on the firewall, was opened; the filter/canister was full of fuel. The engine high pressure fuel pump filter bowl was opened, and the fuel level was about one inch below the top; no debris or contaminates were found. Approximately 1 quart of fuel was drained from the airplane's fuel header tank; the fuel appeared clean.

Without electrical power, (and the wings removed from the airplane) the left and right fuel gauges read about 1/16 inch and 1/8 inch above empty, respectively. Electrical power was applied to the airplane, and a self-test was successful on the Shadin fuel flowmeter. The unit displayed 52.1 for fuel remaining, and 157 for fuel used. The airplane was equipped with a 210-gallon fuel system. The flowmeter does not have a fuel level sensing capability, but subtracts fuel from what the user (pilot) input into the meter. The flowmeter was programed to 209, at the last refueling or instrument reset.

The engine was separated from the airframe and sent to overhaul/repair facility. Prior to overhaul, the engine was placed in an engine test cell. Under the supervision of an FAA inspector, an engine test run was conducted. The engine started and ran, with no abnormalities noted.

A reason for the loss of engine power was not found. 

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying
Loss of engine power (total) (Defining event)

Emergency descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 58
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/19/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 12/28/2015
Flight Time:  9654 hours (Total, all aircraft), 300 hours (Total, this make and model), 200 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 200 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: AIR TRACTOR INC
Registration: N653LA
Model/Series: AT 602 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 602-0653
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/30/2017, Continuous Airworthiness
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines:  Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time: 8636.3 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: P&W
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: PT6A
Registered Owner: CENTRAL FARMERS FLYING SERVICE
Rated Power:
Operator: CENTRAL FARMERS FLYING SERVICE
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: KACP
Observation Time: 1255 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 270°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 3400 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 20°C
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 4000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots, Variable
Visibility (RVR): 
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Vidrine, LA (LA25)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Vidrine, LA (LA25)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:
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:  30.693889, -92.403333 (est)

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA165 
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Friday, April 21, 2017 in Vidrine, LA
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT 602, registration: N653LA
Injuries: 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 April 21, 2017, about 1250 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT602 agricultural airplane, N653LA conducted a forced landing near Vidrine, Louisiana. The commercial rated pilot was not injured and the airplane was substantially damaged during the landing. The airplane was registered to and operated by Central Famers Cooperative dba Central Farmers Flying Service under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time. 

The pilot reported to the responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, that he was conducting spray operations. The pilot added that he was on the last run and made a climbing turn, when the engine "flamed out". He turned on the [fuel] boost pumps, but was too low to the ground for an engine start. The pilot then conducted a forced landing in a rice field. During the landing, the airplane impacted several levies. 

The airplane's main landing gear were torn off during the landing and the airplane came to a stop on its belly. Substantial damage was noted to the airplane's left and right wings.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

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