Saturday, June 08, 2019

Loss of Engine Power (total): Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga, N2880W, accident occurred August 23, 2018 near Meadow Lake Airport (KFLY), Colorado Springs, El Paso County, 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 Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Falcon, CO
Accident Number: CEN18LA348
Date & Time: 08/23/2018, 1254 MDT
Registration: N2880W
Aircraft: Piper PA32R
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On August 23, 2018, at 1254 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-301 airplane, N2880W, experienced a partial loss of engine power after takeoff and conducted a forced landing to a field near Meadow Lake Airport (FLY), Falcon, Colorado. The private pilot and the passenger were not injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed. The airplane had just departed FLY and was en route to Estherville Municipal Airport (EST), Estherville, Iowa.

After the accident, the pilot stated that he had flown the airplane from EST to FLY earlier that day and planned to return to EST. During the preflight engine runup and magneto check, the engine was running rough so he taxied the airplane to a maintenance facility at FLY to troubleshoot the issue. The pilot stated that the mechanic checked the magnetos and disconnected a primary lead wire. The mechanic provided information about how the pilot should set the airplane's fuel mixture at a high elevation airport. The pilot completed another engine runup and set the fuel mixture according to the mechanic's instructions, then taxied to the runway for a "mock" takeoff roll to see if the engine was capable of producing takeoff power, which was completed successfully. The pilot then taxied the airplane back to the mechanic and completed one final fuel mixture adjustment to reach full engine power at 2,700 rpm. The pilot then taxied back to the runway and began the takeoff roll; the airplane rotated for takeoff at 76 knots and 10° of flaps were extended. After climbing through 100 ft above ground level (agl), the engine experienced a loss of power and was unable to maintain altitude. The pilot stated that the stall warning horn was sounding so he lowered the nose to increase airspeed, then made a forced landing into a field straight ahead; the airplane stalled and then impacted the ground (figure 1).

Figure 1 – Airplane came to rest in an open field

The pilot later reported that one month before the accident, he experienced an issue with the magneto so he took the airplane to a maintenance facility where they reconnected a loose wire, then the engine operated normally.

The mechanic at FLY stated that the left side magneto was inoperative and that the primary leads were wired incorrectly. He disconnected the primary leads and the pilot started the engine and appeared to achieve full power. He watched the pilot complete a mock takeoff attempt, during which the airplane climbed about 6 ft agl, and then landed. The mechanic instructed the pilot to extend the flaps to 10° and set the mixture to achieve 2,700 rpm for takeoff. The pilot taxied the airplane back to the south end of the runway and departed to the north. The mechanic noted that the airplane climbed to at least 50 ft agl and the pitch attitude was high. He found out later that the airplane had landed in a field. The left magneto was not repaired by the mechanic, nor did the pilot request it to be repaired.

Based on the temperature, dew point, barometric pressure, and field elevation, the density altitude was calculated above 9,400 ft mean sea level.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors completed a post-recovery examination of the airplane. The recovery crew reported to the FAA inspectors that they drained about 70 gallons of fuel from the airplane and it tested negative for water contamination. During the examination the FAA noted that the fuel system was free of contaminants. They found that both primary leads were disconnected from the dual magneto and were hanging loose in the engine compartment; the magneto was removed from its mount and tested for functionally. When the drive shaft was manually actuated, the right magneto produced a spark at each terminal, but the left magneto did not produce a spark at any terminal and the contact points did not open. The bottom spark plugs for cylinder Nos. 2 and 6 were oil soaked and the No. 6 cylinder contained oil. Also, a cold engine compression check revealed that the No. 2 cylinder was low, while the rest were within normal specification. No other anomalies were noted during the examination. FAA examination photos of the spark plugs revealed that some of the electrodes were degraded and did not exhibit signs of recent operation.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 57, Male
Airplane Rating(s): 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: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/11/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/18/2017
Flight Time:   820 hours (Total, all aircraft), 677 hours (Total, this make and model), 771.8 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 34.4 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 20.1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 5.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N2880W
Model/Series: PA32R 301
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1979
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 32R-8013002
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 06/20/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3600 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 35 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4740.9 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: IO-540-K1G5D
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 300 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: KFLY, 6874 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1255 MDT
Direction from Accident Site: 165°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 12 knots / 18 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.2 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Falcon, CO (FLY)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Estherville, IA (EST)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1253 MDT
Type of Airspace: Class E

Airport Information

Airport: Meadow Lake (FLY)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 6873 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 33
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 6000 ft / 60 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 38.961667, -104.575278 (est)

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