Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Slow flight

We find ourselves in slow flight with every landing we do. Understanding how to control the airplane that close to the ground is why we practice slow flight and approach to landing stalls. The cushion of doing at a high altitude can make it seem like it would never happen to you, but the truth is it happens. Being distracted, unfamiliar airplane/airport, big lapses in your flying, big gust of wind the reasons are endless but being prepared for every phase of flight is why we practice (and practice) them in training and later in our BFRs. Below is a recent NTSB report.

NTSB Identification: LAX08LA055
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 01, 2008 in Palo Alto, CA
Aircraft: Cessna 152, registration: N49811
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On February 1, 2008, at 0846 Pacific standard time, a single-engine Cessna 152, N49811, experienced a loss of engine power on takeoff and landed hard following an emergency landing on runway 13 at Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County (PAO), Palo Alto, California. West Valley Flying Club operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the airplane sustained structural damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area flight that was originating at the time of the accident. The flight was destined for San Carlos Airport (SQL), San Carlos, California, and no flight plan had been filed.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the chief pilot for West Valley Flying Club (WVFC). The chief pilot stated that the airplane was a lease-back to the flying club.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations inspector interviewed the pilot. She reported that she was returning the airplane to its home base of San Carlos. The run-up and initial takeoff were normal. About 500 feet above ground level (agl), the engine began to lose power and "hiccupped." She contacted SQL (this is a typo, it was PAO) tower and requested a return for a precautionary landing. The approach was normal; however, after passing over the threshold at 50 feet the engine quit. She stated that she let the airspeed get a "little low" and the airplane started to mush(imminent stall) at the point that she started to flare. The airplane landed hard, the nose landing gear sheared off, and the right main landing gear went flat. She also reported that the tail was bent behind the baggage compartment.

The pilot stated that the engine was running smoothly, it just wasn't developing power.

The FAA inspector also spoke with the owner of the airplane following the accident. The owner stated that he is a pilot as well as an FAA certificated mechanic. Prior to the accident, he was aware of reports that had been made to WVFC that the engine had not been running well. When he inspected the airplane, he observed oil and smoke residue on the right side of the engine cowl.

After he had conducted an inspection of the engine, he removed and disassembled the carburetor. During the disassembly of the carburetor he noted a piece of venturi stuck in the flapper valve area. The owner stated that he repaired the carburetor, checked the magneto-to-engine timing, conducted a compression check, and did not conduct a ground run-up following the maintenance that he had performed. However, he did ferry the airplane back to SQL, and noted on the takeoff roll the engine was only developing between 2,200 to 2,300 revolutions per minute (rpm), and it felt sluggish. He leaned the airplane, and reported that he had to lean it more than normal just to get 2,400 rpm's. The owner reported no further incidents during the return flight to SQL.

The airplane and engine were retained for further investigation.