Saturday, March 23, 2019

Fuel Starvation: Just Aircraft Highlander, N488VG; accident occurred October 12, 2018 in Monroe, Snohomish County, Washington

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle, Washington

Location: Monroe, WA

Accident Number: GAA19CA034
Date & Time: 10/12/2018, 0930 PDT
Registration: N488VG
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The pilot of the tailwheel-equipped, experimental, amateur-built airplane, who was also an airframe and powerplant mechanic, reported that, during approach to a sandbar, he side-slipped the airplane and that the engine then lost power because he was "too aggressive with the throttle and pulled it enough to bend the [carburetor] idle stop screw bracket." The engine was normally quiet, the airplane was sound proofed, and the pilot also used a noise-cancelling headset, which prevented him from being aware of the power loss until he attempted to add power to no avail. He did not have enough time to restart the engine, so the airplane settled onto the water about 15 to 20 ft short of the sandbar. Subsequently, the airplane hydroplaned and then came to rest on the sandbar inverted. The pilot reported that the reason he was aggressive with the throttle was because of a lean mixture that tended to overheat the engine during takeoff or cruise on hot days.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing lift strut, left wing, and rudder.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspector reported that the pilot had modified the number and position of the last hole in the fuel spray bar. By doing so, the pilot was able to get the engine to "barely run" to perform short-field landings. During the accident landing, it "must have cut off the flow of fuel enough to make the engine quit."

That pilot reported that he had previously attempted to mechanically enrich the mixture by drilling holes in the fuel spray bar but had drilled a hole "at the location where the engine wanted to idle," meaning that, if the hole was open, the engine would idle high, and if the hole was closed, the engine would "die." He added that it was not a problem unless he was trying to land short. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper engine modification and operation, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, and the pilot's failure to maintain an adequate approach path, which resulted in the airplane landing short of the runway. 


Descent/approach/glide path - Not attained/maintained (Cause)
Fuel - Not specified (Cause)

Personnel issues
Modification/alteration - Pilot (Cause)
Use of equip/system - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Wet surface - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern final
Fuel starvation (Defining event)
Loss of engine power (total)

Roll over

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 67, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/02/2007
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/20/2018
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 7000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 974 hours (Total, this make and model), 7000 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 20 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 10 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Just
Registration: N488VG
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental Light Sport
Serial Number: JA214-08-10
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/03/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 975 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Jabiru
ELT: C91A installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 3300
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 120 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter Air Carrier (135)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPAE, 606 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1653 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 295°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 4900 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C / 9°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Auburn, WA (S50)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Monroe, WA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0900 PDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

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: 47.825000, -122.018611 (est)

1 comment:

  1. Drill some holes in carb spray bar and go fly to see how it runs. I don’t think experimental means risking property and life. Need to get a little more serious about being an A&P.