Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Cessna 172G Skyhawk, N3973L; accident occurred October 27, 2018 in Houston, Texas

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Houston, Texas
Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Houston, TX
Accident Number: CEN19LA015
Date & Time: 10/27/2018, 0915 CDT
Registration: N3973L
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On October 27, 2018, about 0915 central daylight time, a Cessna 172 G airplane, N3973L, impacted a creek near Houston, Texas, during a forced landing following a loss of engine power. The commercial pilot and two passengers were uninjured. The airplane sustained substantial wing damage during the forced landing. The airplane was registered to IFR Flyers LLC and operated by the pilot as a Title 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 West Houston Airport (IWS), near Houston, Texas.

According to the pilot's accident report, the purpose of the flight was an orientation flight for two Young Eagles passengers. After departing from runway 15, the pilot followed interstate highway 10 to highway 99, and then flew north about 5 miles. He then flew east and entered a final for runway 15. On short final the pilot added power, but the engine did not respond. He checked the fuel valve, mixture, and engaged the starter with no engine response. He stated, "I saw the aircraft was headed directly to the concrete revetment on the south bank of Bear Creek. I banked the aircraft left, striking the water nose down and with a left bank."

A representative of the recovery company forwarded pictures of the airplane during recovery. The fuel selector was positioned on the both position and the throttle, mixture, and carburetor heat controls were in their forward positions.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator and a technical representative from the engine manufacturer examined the wreckage at a salvage yard. The airplane was at the salvage yard for several weeks before the examination.

The engine oil dip stick was removed, and water flowed from the dip stick tube. A visual inspection of the motor was conducted, other than evidence of water submersion, no obvious abnormalities were noted. The engine was not free to rotate. However, after removing water from the cylinders, the engine rotated freely. The sound of the magneto impulse couplings were noted. The engine oil was drained from the sump and appeared to be a mixture of oil and water. The removed sparkplugs appeared wet from water. A thumb compression test was completed on each cylinder; suction and compression were present on each cylinder. Each cylinder was inspected via borescope and no preimpact abnormalities were observed. Both left and right magnetos, and the carburetor were removed from the engine. The magnetos were rotated by an impact driver; spark was observed on each terminal, for both magnetos. The carburetor finger screen was not contaminated. The carburetor bowl contained a dirty-brown liquid and when tested with water-detecting pasted; tested positive for water. A small amount of liquid, consistent with aviation fuel, was present in the accelerator pump section of the carburetor.

No preimpact mechanical anomalies were found during the engine examination.

At 0915, the recorded weather at the Houston Executive Airport, near Houston, Texas, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 18° C; dew point 16° C; altimeter 30.10 inches of mercury.

At 0853, the recorded weather at the David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport, near Houston, Texas, was: Wind calm; visibility 9 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 15° C; dew point 15° C; altimeter 30.08 inches of mercury.

At 0853, the recorded weather at the Sugar Land Regional Airport, near Houston, Texas, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 16° C; dew point 14° C; altimeter 30.08 inches of mercury.

The recorded local temperature and dew point data near the time of the engine power loss was plotted on a carburetor icing chart. The charted data showed that the weather in the area was conducive to serious icing at any power to moderate icing at cruise power/serious icing at descent power.

The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, in part, states:

When conditions are conducive to carburetor icing during flight, periodic checks should be made to detect its presence. If detected, full carburetor heat should be applied immediately, and it should be left in the ON position until you are certain that all the ice has been removed. If ice is present, applying partial heat or leaving heat on for an insufficient time might aggravate the situation. In extreme cases of carburetor icing, even after the ice has been removed, full carburetor heat should be used to prevent further ice formation. A carburetor temperature gauge, if installed, is very useful in determining when to use carburetor heat.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 83, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/18/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 01/29/2017
Flight Time:   6300 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1500 hours (Total, this make and model), 5500 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 17 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N3973L
Model/Series: 172 G
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17254142
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/20/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3006.8 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-D
Registered Owner: IFR Flyers LLC
Rated Power: 150 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: KTME, 168 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0915 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 263°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.1 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 16°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Houston, TX (IWS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Houston, TX (IWS)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:  CDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 111 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Unknown
Runway Used: 15
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3953 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude:  29.823611, -95.675556 (est)

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