Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ERA10LA275

Plattekill, NY, USA

Aircraft #1




Prior to departing, the pilot added 17 gallons of fuel to the fuel tanks and three passengers boarded the airplane, resulting in a condition approximately 250 pounds over max allowable takeoff weight. The pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, during which no anomalies were noted. During the initial climb out, the engine stopped producing power, the pilot confirmed that the throttle was in the full forward position, and he looked for a place to land. According to a witness, the airplane "barely cleared trees" during the takeoff climb before it descended out of view. The airplane impacted several trees and came to rest upright in a residential yard. Examination of the airplane revealed that the fuel selector valve was between the "BOTH" and "LEFT" fuel tank position and the carburetor contained approximately 1 teaspoon of fuel. Tests conducted on the fuel selector valve indicated that in the position as found after the accident, the selector valve allowed some fluid to exit the output valves; however, the exact amount of fuel could not be accurately determined. Therefore, as the engine increased from an idle power setting to a full takeoff power setting the fuel was consumed in the carburetor at a more rapid rate than could be replaced. Several checklists and a placard that was on the fuel selector valve indicated that the valve must be in the "BOTH" position for takeoff; however, according to one passenger, they have performed the checklists so many times that they do not "pull the card out anymore." Examination of the seatbelt attach point revealed that screws were utilized to attach the seatbelts to the airframe, instead of bolts as specified by the airplane parts catalog. The failure to use the appropriate hardware on the seatbelts likely contributed to the severity of the injuries sustained in the accident.

Factual Information

On May 20, 2010, about 2145 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N739RK, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground in a residential area shortly after takeoff from the Kobelt Airport (N45), Wallkill, New York. The flight had an intended destination of Brookhaven Airport (HWV), Shirley, New York. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight. The certificated private pilot/owner and one passenger were seriously injured, the other two passengers sustained minor injuries. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. According to a witness, who was at the airport and observed the airplane takeoff, the airplane "barely cleared the trees," continued the climb, descended, began to climb again, and then descended out of his view. In a telephone interview with the NTSB investigator, the owner of the property in which the airplane came to rest stated he did not hear or see the airplane impact his property. He was only made aware of it when his dog began to bark and he heard a voice on his front porch, which he stated was one of the airplane's occupants. According to statements provided to the New York State Police by the two occupants of the airplane that were seated in the backseat, the airplane departed from HWV earlier in the evening and arrived at N45 about 1945. They had dinner at an airport restaurant, refueled the airplane, performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, and departed about 2130. The passengers reported that the takeoff roll appeared to be "normal;" however, immediately after becoming airborne, the airplane "settled down and would not climb," then it began "scraping treetops." The pilot adjusted the pitch attitude of the airplane, it began to climb again, and then "settled down again." The pilot told them they were "going in," the airplane impacted a tree, the ground, and then came to rest upright. According to the pilot, the airplane was started and taxied to the end of the runway."Everything was in [the] green," and then during the initial climb out the engine stopped producing power. He immediately began looking for a place to land while confirming the throttle was in the full forward position. He recalled that the tachometer was indicating approximately 2200 rpm but could not remember if the carburetor heat was in the "ON" position. According to a statement provided to the Safety Board by the student pilot passenger seated in the right front seat, the pilot performed a preflight "run-up" of the engine while performing the items on the checklist. After the checklist was completed, they scanned for traffic, announced their intentions, and began the takeoff roll. The throttle was in the full power position, the airplane broke ground, and approximately 45 seconds later he noticed the reflection of the strobe lights off the trees. He further stated that the airplane had a "card" checklist; however, they have performed the checklists so many times that they do not "pull the card out anymore." According to a credit card receipt, with the right front seat passenger's name imprinted on it, 17.406 gallons was purchased at 2133 on May 20, 2010. According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that responded to the accident location, the airplane came to rest in a residential yard after impacting several trees. The airplane came to rest on a heading of 290 degrees. Photographs provided to the NTSB revealed that the right wing was bent up slightly and the right main landing gear was separated from the airplane. In order to extricate the remaining occupants from the airplane, the rescue personnel had to remove the roof and surrounding airplane cabin structure. The pilot, age 48, held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on June 5, 2009. At the time of the accident, the pilot reported 400 total hours of flight experience. The airplane was issued an FAA airworthiness certificate on May 10, 1978, and was registered to the accident pilot on May 29, 2007. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine. Aircraft maintenance records indicated that on March 26, 2010, an annual inspection had been completed, and at the time of the entry, the tachometer indicated 9,563.1 hours of total time in service. The engine had 4,783 hours of total time in service and 833.1 hours since major overhaul. FAA records indicated that N45 was equipped with a single asphalt runway designated 3/21. The runway measured 2,864-feet-long by 50-feet-wide, and airport elevation was listed as 420 feet above mean sea level. Approximately 200 feet from the end of the runway were trees about 60 feet tall and about 100 feet left of the extended centerline. The privately owned airport was not equipped with an air traffic control tower. A representative of Lockheed Martin reported that "no services were provided to N739RK by Lockheed Martin Flight Services or DUATS" on the day of the accident. The 2145 reported weather observation at Stewart International Airport (SWF), Newburgh, NY, located approximately 9 miles to the south of the accident sight, included calm winds; visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 19 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C; altimeter 30.02 inches of mercury. Weight and balance calculations of the flight revealed that the airplane had an actual takeoff weight of 2,579 pounds. Guidance provided by the airplane manufacturer indicated that the maximum allowable takeoff weight was 2,300 pounds. Follow up examination conducted on June 4, 2010, by an FAA inspector and representatives from both the airframe and engine manufacturer revealed that the fuel selector valve was found between the "BOTH" and "LEFT" fuel tank detents. The fuel selector valve was removed and sent to the manufacturer's facility for bench testing. Continuity was confirmed to all flight control surfaces. Examination of the seat and seatbelts revealed that the right front seatbelt was separated at the attach point. Examination of the screw that was used to attach the belt to the structure was not the AN4-6A bolt that was recommended by the Cessna 172 Parts Catalog and contained threads that extended to the head. The engine was examined and the propeller remained attached. One propeller blade was bent aft and the other blade had minimal damage. The carburetor was examined, the mixture control was in the full rich position and the throttle control arm was in the three-quarters full power position. No fuel staining was observed on the exterior of the carburetor bowl. Disassembly of the bowl revealed approximately one teaspoon of fuel present and was absent of water. The carburetor air box was impact damaged and the carburetor heat cockpit control knob was extended approximately one-half inch. The fuel screen was free of debris. Spark was produced at all leads when the engine was rotated by hand and the plugs were grayish in color. Oil was present on the engine oil dipstick and the oil suction screen was absent of metallic particles. The engine was rotated at the propeller flange and revealed continuity to the rear accessory gear box. Thumb compression was confirmed on all cylinders. On September 1, 2010, the selector valve was examined and tested at a facility in Independence, Kansas with oversight provided by an FAA inspector. Initial examination revealed that the handle shaft did not turn freely; however, all four detents were discernable. After solvent, utilized for the flow check, was applied the shaft rotated with less difficulty and the detents were similar in feel. During the check, with the handle in the "OFF" detent, the valve was pressurized to 5 pounds per square inch (psi) and there was noted as a leakage rate of less than the allowable 10 drops per minute. The valve was pressurized to 1 psi and the "BOTH," "LEFT," and "RIGHT" selector valve detent positions and the flow was noted as unrestricted. With the valve in the approximate position as located in the accident airplane, solvent was noted as flowing from the outlet ports. Turning the valve approximately 2 degrees counterclockwise restricted the flow and no solvent was observed exiting the outlet ports. The valve was disassembled and all of the components were found in proper assembly order and were noted as unremarkable. According to the Cessna 172 Information Manual, Section 2 "Limitations," a placard located on the fuel selector valve requires that the valve must be placed in "BOTH" for takeoff and landing. Chapter 4 "Normal Procedures" requires that the fuel selector valve be placed in the "BOTH" position as part of the "Before Starting Engine" and "Before Takeoff" checklist.

Probable Cause and Findings

The pilot's failure to place the fuel selector valve in the appropriate position for takeoff resulting in a partial loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's attempted takeoff at a higher than allowed gross weight.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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