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N5985Y accident description

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Crash location 46.036666°N, 84.420000°W
Nearest city Stalwart, MI
46.098075°N, 84.238638°W
9.7 miles away
Tail number N5985Y
Accident date 23 Nov 2002
Aircraft type Piper PA-23-250
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On November 23, 2002, at 1200 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-23-250, N5985Y, piloted by an airline transport pilot, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing near Stalwart, Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 on an activated instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The pilot and two passengers reported no injuries. The flight departed the Toledo Suburban Airport, Lambertville, Michigan, at 1030 and was enroute to Drummon Island, Michigan, at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot's written statement, while cruising at 6,000 feet msl the aircraft began to accumulate trace icing on the wings. The pilot reported the icing to air traffic control (ATC) and was instructed to descend to 5,000 feet msl. The pilot stated there was no further accumulation of ice at 5,000 feet msl. The pilot reported ATC cleared him to 3,200 feet msl and "while descending the ice melted, but sometime later the left engine began losing power."

The pilot stated he noted the loss of engine power when "the airplane started yawing to the left and the rpm [gauge] for the left engine started to fluctuate and the engine was surging." The pilot reported that he performed "the emergency procedures, to verify it was indeed the left engine. I immediately began trouble shooting by pulling the alternate air lever for the left engine and noticed no change." The aircraft was situated over Lake Huron when the left engine experienced the loss of engine power.

The pilot stated he checked the fuel quantity gauges and the "left fuel flow was indicating 13 [gallons/hour] versus 14 [gallons/hour] on the right. The left fuel quantity was reading 1/4 tank and the fuel selector remained on the inboard tanks because the [gauge] indicated fuel in the tank."

The pilot stated he did not feather the left propeller because "the [left] engine was creating some thrust and this could be needed to reach land." The pilot reported that the airplane continued to loose altitude at Vyse, best rate-of-climb speed (single-engine), and he relayed the situation to ATC. ATC queried if he would be able to reach his destination and he responded that he would not. ATC informed the pilot of the Albert J. Lindberg Airport (5Y1), which was approximately seven nautical miles from the aircraft's position. The pilot stated he immediately turned toward 5Y1.

The pilot reported that when the airplane was over land he determined that he would not be able to make 5Y1 and selected a road to perform a forced landing on. The pilot reported he "extended the gear and flaps, but quickly saw [the road] [wasn't] suitable due to its width and obstructions, which [weren't] noticeable at first." The pilot stated, "Because of excessive drag and altitude loss I elected to raise the gear and some flaps, looked to the left and saw a [farmer's] field. Knowing that a [gear-up] landing was inevitable I turned off all switches and pushed in all knobs and landed safely."

The pilot reported that prior to departure "all fuel tanks were topped off", totaling 144 gallons.

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating. The pilot also was rated for commercial single-engine land operations.

The pilot held a certified flight instructor certificate with airplane multiengine land, airplane single-engine, and instrument airplane ratings. The pilot was also an advanced ground instructor and instrument ground instructor.

A local fixed base operator (FBO) recovered the airplane from the field. In a written statement, provided by the director of maintenance (DoM), the airplane was located in a field with the "landing gear collapsed." The DoM reported that all four fuel tanks were drained prior to movement of the airframe. The two inboard fuel tanks were "empty" and a total of 70 gallons of fuel were recovered from the two outboard fuel tanks.

The airframe was hoisted onto a trailer for transport and engine test runs. The left engine electric fuel pump operated but overloaded the circuit breaker. The left engine was primed using the right electric fuel pump and the fuel selector positioned on "crossfeed." Both fuel selectors were positioned on the "outboard" tanks for the engine test runs. The DoM reported the "left engine started and ran" after some compacted dirt was cleared from an exhaust pipe. The DoM stated, "Left engine produced normal indications at 1500 rpm for approximately 2 minutes. Both magnetos indicating 100 rpm drops." The right engine would start-up, but would not sustain power because of impact damage to the mixture control unit.

In a phone interview the DoM reported that the four fuel tanks were not ruptured or damaged.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper fuel management during the flight and the pilot's improper decision not to select the outboard fuel tank when a loss of engine power was experienced, resulting in fuel starvation, a sustained loss of engine power, and subsequent forced landing.

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