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N8745E accident description

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Tail numberN8745E
Accident dateJanuary 14, 2006
Aircraft typePiper PA-32-300
LocationPierre, SD
Near 44.393611 N, -100.2875 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On January 14, 2006, about 1225 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-300, N8745E, operated by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage on impact with a ravine during a forced landing following an in-flight loss of engine power during takeoff from runway 13 at the Pierre Regional Airport (PIR), Pierre, South Dakota. The personal flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was on file. One passenger was fatally injured. The pilot and four passengers were seriously injured and were hospitalized. The local flight was originating from PIR at the time of the accident.

Two witnesses were in an area south of the airport. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed the witnesses. The FAA interview with one witness, in part, stated:

He stated that he was goose hunting on his property that day. He estimated that they were as much as a mile south of the airport. He said this plane caught their attention, because the sound it made caught their attention. I asked what sound? [The witness] stated the aircraft was in the pattern and then it "backfired, sputtered and died." I asked where the airplane was when he heard the noise? He stated that as soon as he looked at it, it appeared to be 150 to 200 feet in the air. It looked like it was just climbing out. I asked what happened next? He stated that the aircraft turned to the left. It looked like it was going back to the airport. ... [The witness] stated that the best way he could describe the distance was that the aircraft appeared to go about 200 yards past the last buildings on the south side of the airport property and then it turned back.

The FAA interview with the other witness, in part, stated:

[The witness] said he was goose hunting with a group of folks on that day and time of the accident. He stated that they were approximately one half mile south of the airport property. He said there were a few airplanes in the pattern that day. He said an aircraft really caught their attention when it took off and then the engine surged and popped and then quit. He said it ran for just a couple of seconds after it surged and then it sounded just like it ran out of gas. He said the aircraft was approximately 200 feet in the air when he looked at it. He said the aircraft made a left turn and appeared to be heading back to the airport. He said it was going down real fast, but it looked like it was gliding O.K. He said they lost sight of the plane and then saw a cloud of dust.

The FAA interview with a witness at the fixed base operator (FBO) at the airport, in part, stated:

He said that [the pilot] taxied back to use the full runway (RWY 13). He stated that [the pilot] performed another run-up and then departed. [The witness] stated the aircraft lifted off about 100 yards prior to the FBO buildings across from the runway. [The witness] said he was holding a hand held radio and was watching the take off from inside the FBO building. He stated the aircraft climbed to 400 to 500 feet [above ground level] agl, went slightly [past] the end of the runway, and then made a turn to the left. He said he noticed the aircraft leveled off slightly and then started to descend. [The witness] said, "Hey Bud, what's going on?" The pilot replied, "I'm going down!" [The witness] stated the aircraft was in a continuous descending turn to the left. He said at approximately 75 feet above ground level, the aircraft quit turning and glided in a wings level attitude until he lost sight of the aircraft.

The pilot's accident report, in part, stated:

I performed a preflight inspection of the aircraft. The engine had over 9 quarts of oil. I visually inspected the fuel tanks with the left outboard fuel tank not showing any fuel, the left main tank fuel level was between the tab and the filler neck, the right main tank was full to the filler neck, and the right outboard tank had minimal fuel. With the preflight inspection complete I loaded the passengers for the first flight of the day. With passengers aboard I started the engine and taxied to runway 13. I let the engine warm into the green and completed the pre takeoff checklist with no noted problems. I then departed on runway 13 south to the river, turned west and, flew up the river following it to the north near the dam, and returned the airport. The flight lasted approximately 10 to 15 minutes. I landed on runway 13 and taxied in and unloaded the passengers. I then loaded the passengers for the second flight. I restarted the engine and taxied to runway 13. I again performed a pre takeoff check of the aircraft with no noted problems and taxied onto runway 13 for departure. I lifted off and initiated a positive rate of climb. At approximately 400 to 500 feet AGL as I passed the end of the runway the engine began to surge. At that time I was on the right main fuel tank as it had the most fuel. I immediately switched the fuel selector to the left main tank, and verified that my electric fuel pump that I had turned on for takeoff was still in the on position. The engine continued to surge. The terrain offered no acceptable landing area so I initiated a shallow turn to the left. The engine then quit. I tried to find a suitable landing area but the terrain was extremely hilly and uneven. I then prepared for the emergency landing. I attempted to turn off the fuel and master switch before impact.

The pilot was interviewed the day of the accident. The interview, in part, stated:

[The pilot] was piloting the aircraft and upon takeoff, the aircraft initially climbed "normal." As the aircraft climbed, [the pilot] shut off the auxiliary booster. Shortly thereafter, the engine lost power and [the pilot] turned the auxiliary booster back on. [The pilot] executed a left hand turn in an attempt to return to the same runway since the engine had lost power. After banking left, [the pilot] realized that the aircraft was not going to be able to make it back to the same runway. [The pilot] then took action to prepare for an emergency landing. In doing so, [the pilot] recalls telling the passengers to make sure they had their seatbelts tight.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. The pilot held a third class medical certificate, with limitations for corrective lenses, dated March 19, 2004. The pilot reported he had accumulated 477 total flying hours and 93.5 hours in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot reported accumulating 14.7 hours of flight time in the 90 days prior to the accident, 5.2 hours of flight time in the 30 days prior to the accident, and 0.9 hours of flight time in the 24 hours prior to the accident. The pilot reported that his last flight review was completed on August 26, 2004.


The accident airplane, N8745E, was a Piper PA-32-300, Cherokee Six, serial number 32-7640073, single-engine, low-wing airplane. Its engine was a 300 horsepower Lycoming IO-540-K1G5 engine, serial number L-23096-48A. Its propeller was a constant speed, two-bladed, Hartzell HC-C2YK-1BF model, with serial number CH35472B. The propeller had F8475D-4 type blades installed. The airplane contained an airworthiness certificate dated March 3, 1976 and a registration certificate dated January 24, 1991. A review of the aircraft logbooks revealed a 100-hour was completed on October 27, 2005. The airframe logbook entry on that date indicated that the airplane had accumulated 9,978 hours of service and its tachometer read 9,978. The airplane's annual inspection was completed on April 7, 2005. The engine logbook entry for that date revealed that the engine had accumulated 1,665 hours since overhaul.

Fuel receipts showed the airplane was fueled prior to the flight with 17 gallons of 100 low lead (LL) aviation gasoline on January 13, 2006. The main fuel tanks were topped off.

The pilot's operating handbook, in part, stated:


The proper action to be taken if loss of power occurs during takeoff will depend on circumstances. 1. If sufficient runway remains for a normal landing, land straight ahead. 2. If insufficient runway remains, maintain a safe airspeed and make only a shallow turn if necessary to avoid obstructions. Use of flaps depends on circumstances. Normally, flaps should be fully extended for touchdown. 3. If you have gained sufficient altitude to attempt a restart, proceed as follows: a. MAINTAIN SAFE AIRSPEED b. FUEL SELECTOR - SWITCH TO ANOTHER TANK CONTAINING FUEL c. ELECTRIC FUEL PUMP - CHECK ON d. MIXTURE - CHECK RICH e. ALTERNATE AIR - ON


If engine failure was caused by fuel exhaustion, power will not be regained after tanks are switched until empty fuel lines are filled, which may require up to ten seconds.


At 1153, the recorded weather at PIR was: Wind 140 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 7 degrees C; dew point -2 degrees C; altimeter 29.74 inches of mercury.

At 1253, the recorded weather at PIR was: Wind 140 degrees at 8 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 11 degrees C; dew point -1 degree C; altimeter 29.69 inches of mercury.


The North Central U.S. Region Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD) indicated that the airport elevation at PIR was 1,742 feet above mean sea level (MSL). PIR was an uncontrolled (non-towered) airport with two runways, 7/25 and 13/31. The A/FD stated that runway 13/31 was 6,891 feet long and 150 feet wide. The runway surface was composed of asphalt.


An on-scene investigation was conducted. The airplane was found about seven tenths of a mile southeast of the center of PIR. The airplane was upright in a ravine. A debris path from the top of the hill by the ravine led down to the airplane. The engine and forward fuselage were crushed upward and were resting on a side of the ravine. The propeller's blades were bent rearward. The horizontal stabilator was resting on the opposite wall of the ravine. The wings were partially separated from the fuselage. The smell of aviation gasoline was present at the site. The left and right tip tanks were damaged and the tanks did not contain a liquid. Vegetation under the left wing pressed against the left main tank's quick drain valve and a blue liquid consistent with 100LL aviation gasoline was found in the bottom of the left tank. The right main tank was filled with a blue liquid consistent with 100LL aviation gasoline between the tab and the top of the tank. A blue liquid consistent with aviation gasoline was found in the fuel selector valve's sump. Flight control continuity was established. Engine control continuity was established.

The wreckage was relocated to a hangar at PIR for examination. Drops of a blue liquid consistent with 100LL aviation gasoline came out of the fuel line between the fuel servo and distribution valve. Nothing was found in the fuel line from the firewall to the engine driven fuel pump. The electric fuel pump was removed and it pumped a liquid when electrical power was applied. The fuel selector valve was removed from the airplane and the valve was found positioned between the left and right main tanks. The screen in the fuel sump and fuel servo were both found clean. The engine exhibited a thumb compression at all cylinders when the propeller was rotated by hand. Both magnetos produced spark at spark plug leads. No airframe or engine pre-impact anomalies were detected.


Pilot's shoulder harness was found stowed on its snap.


A FAA inspector took the collected samples from the sump and right wing main tank to the United States Air Force base near Rapid City, South Dakota. The logistics group at the base coordinated the fuel sample shipment to the Aerospace Fuels Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The laboratory tested the samples and their report stated that both samples met the specifications of 100LL aviation gasoline. The laboratory's report on the fuel is appended to the docket material associated with this investigation.

The engine was shipped to Textron Lycoming, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for an engine run. The engine was test run as received from the accident site with a rocker cover gasket from the number two cylinder replaced due to an oil leak. Debris media was found in the oil screen. Fourier Transform Infra Red spectroscopy examination of the media revealed it was composed of "nitrile rubber HNBR" [Hydrogenated Nitrile Rubber].

The engine was run in computer controlled production test cell. The engine produced full rated power during the automated test run. The engine was manually tested with four rapid throttle advancements. The engine accelerated to full RPM during each advancement within five seconds. The Lycoming engine test run report is appended to the docket material associated with this investigation.


FAA pamphlet, Your Shoulder Harness FAA-P-8740-45, stated:

IF YOU'VE GOT IT - USE IT! Why Shoulder Harnesses?

Shoulder harnesses can substantially reduce injury in case of an accident. Experts estimate that serious injuries and fatalities would be reduced 35 percent if everyone wore shoulder harnesses in aircraft. Ironically, only 23 percent of those involved in fatal/serious injury accidents in a recent year had their shoulder harness secured, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Shoulder harnesses are standard equipment in front seats of all general aviation aircraft built since 1978. They've been installed or made available at every seat in some aircraft long before that.

Unfortunately, pilots often treat installed shoulder harnesses as optional equipment. Pilots who wear seat belts (even to taxi) sometimes omit fastening their shoulder harness.

Remember, shoulder harnesses are valuable extra protection for you and your passengers! Every general aircraft built for personal or business use after December 31, 1984, will be equipped with shoulder harnesses as standard equipment at every forward facing passenger seat. That's how much importance industry places on shoulder harnesses. We want you to appreciate their importance, too.

Let's face it - anyone can have an accident - no matter how conscientious a pilot or driver you are. And the big difference between cars and planes is that planes travel faster. Thus, it is even more important that airplane occupants be restrained because a shoulder harness will lessen occupant head and chest injuries.

Of course, the pilot is responsible under 91.107 to brief passengers on the use of seat belts. But, shouldn't you also urge your passengers to use their shoulder harnesses?

If your aircraft is not equipped with shoulder harnesses, consider having them installed - they're one of the most cost effective safety devices you can buy for your aircraft. Information on this is available in FAA Advisory Circular AC 43.13-2.

Use of Seat Belts and Shoulder Harnesses * Preflight - Remember, the pilot is responsible for showing passengers how to fasten/unfasten seat belts and shoulder harnesses. * Takeoffs and Landings - Assure that seat belts and shoulder harnesses are secured for these two most critical phases of flight. * Enroute - For safety, your passengers should keep their seat belts fastened loose, if they prefer, but not off. If you encounter greater than light turbulence, inform your passengers to tighten their belts and wear their shoulder harnesses.

Proper Wearing of Seat Belts and Shoulder Harnesses. There's a right way and a wrong way to

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.