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N140X accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 40.462778°N, 119.366667°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Empire, NV
39.184911°N, 119.713235°W
90.2 miles away
Tail number N140X
Accident date 30 Aug 2017
Aircraft type Cessna 140
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 30, 2017, about 1000 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 140 airplane, N140X, was substantially damaged during a precautionary landing on a dirt road in Empire, Nevada. The private pilot was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing. 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 cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Gerlach, Nevada, about 0930 and was destined for Bishop, California.

The pilot stated that about 20-25 minutes after departure, he smelled a bad odor and noticed the engine's oil temperature gauge was indicating that it was hotter than normal. In an effort to avoid having the engine seize while in flight, the pilot opted to perform a precautionary landing. He selected an empty dirt road that had an uphill gradient. After touchdown, the airplane bounced and a wind gust lifted the airplane to the right of the road. As the pilot applied full power, the right main landing gear wheel contacted the edge of the road and sheared off. The airplane could not out-climb the rising terrain of the road and the remainder of the right main landing gear dug into the dirt. The airplane made a 180° turn and came to rest with the right-wing tip on the ground. During the accident sequence, the right-wing spar was substantially damaged.


The pilot reported that he had purchased the airplane in October 2014.

The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-235-C1B engine, s/n L-8106-15, and, according to the manufacturer, is rated at 108 horse power. According to the aircraft maintenance records and the recording tachometer in the cockpit, the engine had accumulated a total time in service of 302.4 hours. The pilot reported that the most recent annual inspection was completed in June 2017 equating to 32 hours flight time prior to the accident. The maintenance records were not provided. The Federal Aviation Administration's airplane records revealed that the engine was installed in June 1981. The facility that last overhauled the engine was located by the sticker on the engine. The records they had on the engine showed that the last overhaul was performed June 2015 after which, the customer picked up the engine (they did not perform the installation).

Fuel System Design

The airplane's fuel system was a gravity-fed design where fuel flowed from the 12.5 gallon metal tanks in the inboard section of each wing. The right tank was plumbed into the upper cockpit where there was a fuel shutoff valve. From the shut-off the fuel would flow to the selector. The left fuel tank was plumbed directly to the selector and from there the fuel would continue through the firewall to the gascolator and then to the carburetor.

The pilot reported that he had 20 gallons of fuel on board at the time of the accident.


The engine remained mounted to the airframe. An external visual examination of the engine revealed no evidence of catastrophic malfunctions or failures. The exhaust muffler was pushed into the firewall and it could not be determined if this was a result of the accident sequence. The throttle knob in the cockpit was manipulated to the full forward and aft position which resulted in the throttle arm moving from stop to stop on the carburetor. The upper spark plugs were removed and no mechanical damage was noted; the electrodes and posts exhibited a dark coloration, which according to the Champion Spark Plugs Check-A-Plug chart AV-27, is consistent with a normal to rich operation. The crankshaft was rotated by hand utilizing the propeller. The crankshaft was free and easy to rotate in both directions. "Thumb" compression was observed in proper order on all four cylinders.

The propeller, damaged from the accident, was removed from the engine and a club propeller was installed on the engine. The gascolator bowl was removed from its attachment point; it contained blue liquid consistent with 100LL fuel. The gascolator screen was clear of debris.

The airplane was secured to a forklift and weighted down. A fuel source was attached to the left wing inlet port and the fuel selector was positioned to the left tank. The engine was successfully started and run for over 5 minutes at various power settings from idle to about 2,000 rpm. A magneto check was conducted on the left and right magnetos with an approximate a minimal rpm drop per magneto.

No mechanical anomalies were noted with engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The tailwheel appeared to be a Scott 3200 tailwheel with the bent style steering arm that was converted to a larger tire size. The tailwheel could be manually rotated clockwise to the stop, but investigators were unable to rotate the tailwheel completely in the counterclockwise direction. The control cables remained attached to the rudder pedals. The right control cable was catching and rubbing on a displaced fairing behind the pedals. It could not be determined if this was a result of the accident sequence or had occurred prior. The complete examination notes with pictures are contained in the public docket for this accident

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during an off-airport precautionary landing on a dirt road with an uphill gradient.

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