Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary CEN23LA022

Evansville, IN, USA

Aircraft #1


PIPER PA-32R-300


The pilot was conducting a personal cross-country flight. He performed a preflight inspection, and the takeoff and climb were normal. After flying for about 1 hour 10 minutes, the pilot felt the engine shake and noticed some abnormal indications on the engine monitor. He made some adjustments to the engine controls, and the engine smoothed out and ran normally. A few minutes later, the engine surged momentarily to full power and then returned to its previous power setting. The pilot diverted to a local airport, and the engine operated normally as the airplane descended. During the approach, which was conducted in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), the engine lost total power when the airplane was about 8 miles from the airport. The pilot attempted to restart the engine but was unsuccessful. The airplane exited the IMC and subsequently landed hard on a golf course, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage, both wings, and horizontal stabilizer. Postaccident examination of the airplane and extracted engine data revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane or engine. Given the available evidence for this accident investigation, the reason for the total loss of engine power could not be determined.

Factual Information

On October 30, 2022, about 1358 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N349SB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Evansville Regional Airport (EVV), Evansville, Indiana. The pilot sustained serious injuries, two passengers sustained minor injuries, and one passenger was not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The pilot reported that, before departure for the cross-country flight, the airplane’s wing fuel tanks were filled (94-gallon capacity), the engine oil dipstick showed 9 quarts, and no anomalies were noted during the preflight inspection. After takeoff, the airplane climbed to 5,000 ft and flew uneventfully for about 1 hour 10 minutes. During that time, with the pilot made an altitude change to 7,000 ft and switched fuel tanks every 30 minutes. Shortly after the airplane reached 7,000 ft, the pilot felt the engine “shake” and noticed that the engine monitor showed abnormal indications for the No. 3 cylinder. The pilot turned on the fuel pump and moved the mixture control to a slightly richer position. The engine smoothed out and ran normally for a few minutes. The engine then surged momentarily to full power before returning back to its previous power setting. The pilot recognized that the airplane would not be able to fly the rest of the way to the airport, so he elected to divert to EVV and have the engine inspected. The pilot advised air traffic control that he needed to divert to EVV for an engine issue. As the airplane descended, the engine appeared to be operating normally. The controller cleared the pilot for the instrument landing system approach to runway 4. When the airplane reached an altitude of 2,500 ft and was about 8 miles southwest of EVV, the engine lost total power. The pilot reported hearing “the unmistakable sound of three thuds…and engine power was lost.” The pilot attempted to restart the engine but was unsuccessful. The pilot noted that fuel pressure, fuel quantity, voltage, and amperage were operating normally. The airplane exited instrument meteorological conditions when the airplane reached an altitude of about 1,100 ft, and the pilot decided to attempt a forced landing on a golf course. The pilot extended the landing gear and flaps, and the airplane landed hard on the golf course grass surface. Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane traveled about 280 ft from the initial impact point to the airplane resting location. The airplane came to rest upright and sustained substantial damage to the fuselage, both wings, and horizontal stabilizer (see the figure below). Figure. Accident airplane at resting location (Source: Federal Aviation Administration). During the postaccident examination of the airplane, compressed air was applied to the fuel system at the firewall fitting, and no obstructions were noted within the system through the fuel selector valve to each wing fuel tank. No engine oil was noted on the exterior surfaces of the airframe. The Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine was removed from the airframe at the firewall. Examination of the engine revealed impact damage to the engine mount, vacuum pump, oil filter, oil cooler, and dual magneto. The engine exhaust was partially crushed and unobstructed. The engine crankshaft was rotated by turning the propeller by hand, and mechanical continuity was noted to the rear accessory gears and cylinder valve train. Compression and suction were observed on all six cylinders, and borescope examination of the cylinder interiors was unremarkable. Oil was noted on the exterior surfaces of the engine accessory case and rear-mounted accessories. The right oil cooler, which displayed impact damage, and the oil hose connecting the oil cooler to the oil pump were found loose on the pump side. Oil drained from the cylinder heads (when the rocker covers were removed) and the oil suction screen cover plug (when the plug was removed). No engine oil was observed on the engine dipstick. Fuel was noted in all fuel lines forward of the firewall and in the engine fuel pump, injector servo, and flow divider. The fuel nozzles, fuel screen, and oil screen were clear of debris. The magneto was rotated using an electric drill and produced spark from all 12 ignition towers. Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Data from the airplane’s J.P. Instruments EDM-900 engine monitor showed no abnormalities during the flight, including at the time of the reported engine issue.

Probable Cause and Findings

The total loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined based on the available evidence.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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