Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Erco 415CD Ercoupe, N3067H: Accident occurred November 20, 2017 in Aurora, Colorado

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Denver, Colorado

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Aurora, CO
Accident Number: CEN18LA034
Date & Time: 11/20/2017, 1230 MST
Registration: N3067H
Aircraft: ERCOUPE 415 CD
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


While the commercial pilot was maneuvering the airplane during a local flight, the engine lost total power. The pilot was unable to restart the engine, and he made a forced landing to a nearby road. After landing, the pilot saw a car on the road and attempted to turn the airplane to the right; however, the airplane's right wing impacted a road sign and a barbed wire fence.

Postaccident testing revealed that the engine-driven fuel pump was not functional; thus, the fuel contained in the main tanks could not be transferred to the header tank. Therefore, the loss of engine power was likely the result of fuel starvation after the available fuel in the header tank had been depleted. Although the airplane was equipped with a header tank fuel gauge, the pilot failed to identify that the fuel level in the header tank was decreasing prematurely.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The failure of the engine-driven fuel pump and the pilot's failure to identify the pump's failure, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation and a forced landing on a road, during which the airplane hit obstacles. 


Fuel pump - Failure (Cause)

Personnel issues
Identification/recognition - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Fence/fence post - Contributed to outcome
Sign/marker - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

On November 20, 2017, about 1230 mountain standard time, an Ercoupe 415-CD airplane, N3067H, had an inflight loss of engine power near Aurora, Colorado. The pilot was uninjured. The airplane sustained substantial damage when it impacted a sign and fence. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area about the time of the accident, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Centennial Airport (APA), near Denver, Colorado, about 1200.

The pilot indicated in his accident report that the flight departed from runway 17L and he climbed out to the east. He reported that there was no turbulence through 7,000 ft above mean sea level (msl). He performed a "Lazy 8" maneuver over County Line Road and was turning west when the engine lost power. The airplane was at about 7,500 ft msl at the time. The pilot reported that he attempted to restart the engine; however, after several unsuccessful attempts he began to look for a suitable landing area. The pilot noted that the surrounding terrain consisted of hills, and that he elected to land on the nearby County Line Road. The pilot reported that during landing roll he observed a car on the road and attempted to turn the airplane to the right; however, the airplane's right wing impacted a road sign, continued through a barbed wire fence, and came to a stop about 40 yards off the road.

At 1153, the recorded weather at APA was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition few clouds at 8,000 ft, few clouds at 12,000 ft, broken clouds 22,000 ft; temperature 16° C; dew point -14° C; altimeter 29.84 inches of mercury. The conditions present were not conducive to the formation of carburetor icing.

The pilot subsequently sold the airplane to a party who collects Ercoupes before an examination of the fuel pump could be completed. The Ercoupe collector reported that he removed the mechanical fuel pump from the engine, and as he moved the pump's lever arm up-and-down the pump did not produce a suction at the pump inlet. Additionally, the pump appeared to be very old and exhibited excessive wear on the lever arm that operated on the cam inside the engine. The mechanical fuel pump normally transfers fuel from the main fuel tanks to the fuselage header tank, which in turn provides fuel to the carburetor via gravity. The airplane was not equipped with an electric fuel pump. In the event of a mechanical fuel pump failure, normal engine operation is sustained until the fuselage header tank becomes fully depleted. A fuel gauge, visible to the pilot, was incorporated into the fuselage header fuel tank cap. The fuel system description in the Ercoupe instruction manual indicates that "when the fuselage tank fuel gauge starts dropping, gas is no longer being pumped from wing tanks." An excerpt on the fuel system from the instruction manual is appended to the docket material associated with this investigation.

The pilot's safety recommendations were that it would be good to have a fuel flow indicator or light to show lack of flow from the wing tank to the header tank, it would be good to have a reliable fuel quantity indicator in the header tank, and that it would be good to install an electric back-up fuel pump between the wing tanks and header tank. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial; Sport Pilot
Age: 81, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Sport Pilot
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/15/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/02/2016
Flight Time:  1852 hours (Total, all aircraft), 182 hours (Total, this make and model), 1532 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 1.1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0.4 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: ERCOUPE
Registration: N3067H
Model/Series: 415 CD
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1946
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 3692
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1376 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
Engine Model/Series: C85 SERIES
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 85 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KAPA, 5883 ft msl
Observation Time: 1153 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 272°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 8000 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / -14°C
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 22000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.84 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV): 
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: DENVER, CO (APA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: DENVER, CO (APA)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1200 MST
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:  39.565833, -104.657778 (est)

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