North Las Vegas Airport
Aircraft Accident/Incident Report

Las Vegas, Nevada 89032
Thursday, August 28, 2008 14:34 PDT

NTSB Narrative Summary Released at Completion of Accident

During climb a few minutes after takeoff, a fire erupted in the airplane's right engine compartment. About 7 miles from the departure airport, the pilot reversed course and notified the air traffic controller that he was declaring an emergency. As the pilot was proceeding back toward the departure airport witnesses observed fire beneath, and smoke trailing from, the right engine and heard boom sounds or explosions as the airplane descended. Although the pilot feathered the right engine's propeller, the airplane's descent continued. The 12-minute flight ended about 1.25 miles from the runway when the airplane impacted trees and power lines before coming to rest upside down adjacent to a private residence. A fuel-fed fire consumed the airframe and damaged nearby private residences. The airplane was owned and operated by an airplane broker that intended to have it ferried to Korea. In preparation for the overseas ferry flight, the airplane's engines were overhauled. Maintenance was also performed on various components including the engine-driven fuel pumps, turbochargers, and propellers. Nacelle fuel tanks were installed and the airplane received an annual inspection. Thereafter, the broker had a ferry pilot fly the airplane from the maintenance facility in Ohio to the pilot's Nevada-based facility, where the ferry pilot had additional maintenance performed related to the air conditioner, gear door, vacuum pump, and idle adjustment. Upon completion of this maintenance, the right engine was test run for at least 20 minutes and the airplane was returned to the ferry pilot. During the following month, the ferry pilot modified the airplane's fuel system by installing four custom-made ferry fuel tanks in the fuselage, and associated plumbing in the wings, to supplement the existing six certificated fuel tanks. The ferry pilot held an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate with inspection authorization. He reinspected the airplane, purportedly in accordance with the Piper Aircraft Company's annual inspection protocol, signed the maintenance logbook, and requested Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for his ferry flight. The FAA reported that it did not process the first ferry pilot's ferry permit application because of issues related to the applicant's forms and the FAA inspector's workload. The airplane broker discharged the pilot and contracted with a new ferry pilot (the accident pilot) to immediately pick up the airplane in Nevada and fly it to California, the second ferry pilot's base. The contract specified that the airplane be airworthy. In California, the accident pilot planned to complete any necessary modifications, acquire FAA approval, and then ferry the airplane overseas. The discharged ferry pilot stated to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator that none of his airplane modifications had involved maintenance in the right engine compartment. He also stated that when he presented the airplane to the replacement ferry pilot (at most 3 hours before takeoff) he told him that fuel lines and fittings in the wings related to the ferry tanks needed to be disconnected prior to flight. During the Safety Board's examination of the airplane, physical evidence was found indicating that the custom-made ferry tank plumbing in the wings had not been disconnected. The airplane wreckage was examined by the NTSB investigation team while on scene and following its recovery. Regarding both engines, no evidence was found of any internal engine component malfunction. Notably, the localized area surrounding and including the right engine-driven fuel pump and its outlet port had sustained significantly greater fire damage than was observed elsewhere. According to the Lycoming engine participant, the damage was consistent with a fuel-fed fire originating in this vicinity, which may have resulted from the engine's fuel supply line "B" nut being loose, a failed fuel line, or an engine-driven fuel pump-related leak. The fuel supply line and its connecting components were not located. The engine-driven fuel pump was subsequently examined by staff from the NTSB's Materials Laboratory. Noted evidence consisted of globules of resolidified metal and areas of missing material consistent with the pump having been engulfed in fire. The staff also examined the airplane. Evidence was found indicating that the fire's area of origin was not within the wings or fuselage, but rather emanated from a localized area within the right engine compartment, where the engine-driven fuel pump and its fuel supply line and fittings were located. However, due to the extensive pre- and post-impact fires, the point of origin and the initiating event that precipitated the fuel leak could not be ascertained. The airplane's "Pilot Operator's Handbook" (POH), provides the procedures for responding to an in-flight fire and securing an engine. It also provides single-engine climb performance data. The POH indicates that the pilot should move the firewall fuel shutoff valve of the affected engine to the "off" position, feather the propeller, close the engine's cowl flaps to reduce drag, turn off the magneto switches, turn off the emergency fuel pump switch and the fuel selector, and pull out the fuel boost pump circuit breaker. It further notes that unless the boost pump's circuit breaker is pulled, the pump will continuously operate. During the wreckage examination, the Safety Board investigators found evidence indicating that the right engine's propeller was feathered. However, contrary to the POH's guidance, the right engine's firewall fuel shutoff valve was not in the "off" position, the cowl flaps were open, the magneto switches were on, the emergency fuel pump switches and the fuel selector were on, and the landing gear was down. Due to fire damage, the position of the fuel boost pump circuit breaker could not be ascertained. Calculations based upon POH data indicate that an undamaged and appropriately configured airplane flying on one engine should have had the capability to climb between 100 and 200 feet per minute and, at a minimum, maintain altitude. Recorded Mode C altitude data indicates that during the last 5 minutes of flight, the airplane descended while slowing about 16 knots below the speed required to maintain altitude.

NTSB Probable Cause Narrative

A loss of power in the right engine due to an in-flight fuel-fed fire in the right engine compartment that, while the exact origin could not be determined, was likely related to the right engine-driven fuel pump, its fuel supply line, or fitting. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to adhere to the POH's procedures for responding to the fire and configuring the airplane to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Event Information

Type of Event Accident
Event Date 8/28/2008
Event Day of the Week Thursday
Time of Event 1434
Event Time Zone Pacific Daylight Time
Event City Las Vegas
Event State NEVADA
Event Country --
Zipcode of the event site 89032
Event Date Year 2008
Event Date Month 8
MidAir Collision Indicator No
On Ground Collision occurred ? No
Event Location Latitude 361241N
Event Location Longitude 1151329W
Event Location Airport North Las Vegas
Event Location Nearest Airport ID VGT
Indicates whether the acc/inc occurred off or on an airport Off Airport/Airstrip
Distance from airport in statute miles 1
Degrees magnetic from airport --
Airport Elevation 2205
Weather Briefing Completeness --
Investigator's weather source Weather Observation Facility
Time of the weather observation 1453 Pacific Daylight Time
Direction of event from weather observation facility (degrees) 78
Weather Observation Facility ID VGT
Elevation of weather observation facility 2205
Distance of event from weather observation facility (units?) 2
Time Zone of the weather observation PDT
Lighting Conditions Day
Lowest Ceiling Height --
Lowest Non-Ceiling Height --
Sky/Lowest/Cloud Conditions Clear
Sky Condition for Lowest Ceiling None
Visibility Runway Visual Range (Feet) --
Visibility Runway Visual Value (Statute Miles) --
Visibility (Statute Miles) 10
Air Temperature at event time (in degrees celsius) 40
Dew Point at event time (in degress fahrenheit) 1
Wind Direction (degrees magnetic) --
Variable Wind Indicator Variable
Wind Speed (knots) 4
Wind Velocity Indicator --
Wind Gust Indicator Not Gusting
Wind Gust (knots) --
Altimeter Setting at event time (in. Hg) 29.77
Density Altitude (feet) --
Intensity of Precipitation --
METAR weather report KVGT 282142Z 00000KT 10SM CLR 40/01 A2977
Event Highest Injury Fatal
On Ground, Fatal Injuries --
On Ground, Minor Injuries 1
On Ground, Serious Injuries --
Injury Total Fatal 1
Injury Total Minor 1
Injury Total None --
Injury Total Serious --
Injury Total All 2
Investigating Agency NTSB
NTSB Docket Number (internal use) 28452
NTSB Notification Source FAA WP ROC
NTSB Notification Date Aug 28 2008 12:00AM
NTSB Notification Time --
Fiche Number and/or location -used to find docket information --
Date of most recent change to record Jul 18 2011 9:09AM
User who most recently changed record broda
Basic weather conditions Visual Meteorological Cond
FAA District Office Las Vegas, NV

Aircraft Involved

Aircraft #1

Aircraft Registration Number N212HB
NTSB Number LAX08FA286
Missing Aircraft Indicator --
Federal Aviation Reg. Part Part 91: General Aviation
Type of Flight Plan filed None
Flight plan Was Activated? No
Damage Substantial
Aircraft Fire In-flight
Aircraft Explosion In-flight
Aircraft Manufacturer's Full Name PIPER
Aircraft Model PA-31-350
Aircraft Series Identifier --
Aircraft Serial Number 31-8152072
Certified Max Gross Weight 7000
Aircraft Category Airplane
Aircraft Registration Class --
Aircraft is a homebuilt? No
Flight Crew Seats 2
Cabin Crew Seats --
Passenger Seats 2
Total number of seats on the aircraft 4
Number of Engines 2
Fixed gear or retractable gear Retractable
Aircraft, Type of Last Inspection Annual
Date of Last Inspection Aug 10 2008 12:00AM
Airframe hours since last inspection 1
Airframe Hours 6373
ELT Installed Yes
ELT Activated No
ELT Aided Location of Event Site No
ELT Type Unknown
Aircraft Owner Name Aeronet Supply
Aircraft Owner Street Address 107 Ruby Court
Aircraft Owner City Gardena
Aircraft Owner State CA
Aircraft Owner Country USA
Aircraft Owner Zipcode 90248
Operator is an individual? No
Operator Name Aeronet Supply
Operator Same as Owner? Yes
Operator Is Doing Business As --
Operator Address Same as Owner? Yes
Operator Street Address --
Operator City Gardena
Operator State CA
Operator Country USA
Operator Zip code --
Operator Code --
Owner has at least one certificate None
Other Operator of large aircraft? No
Certified for Part 133 or 137 Operation --
Operator Certificate Number --
Indicates whether an air carrier operation was scheduled or not --
Indicates Domestic or International Flight --
Operator carrying Pax/Cargo/Mail --
Type of Flying (Per_Bus / Primary) Other Work Use
Second Pilot on Board No
Departure Point Same as Event Yes
Departure Airport Code VGT
Departure City Las Vegas
Departure State NV
Departure Country USA
Departure Time 1422
Departure Time Zone PDT
Destination Same as Local Flt --
Destination Airport Code PAO
Destination City Palo Alto
Destination State CA
Destination Country USA
Specific Phase of Flight Emergency descent/landing
Report sent to ICAO? --
Evacuation occurred --
Date of most recent change to record May 16 2011 3:36PM
User who most recently changed record eckd
Since inspection or accident Time of Accident
Event Location Runway Number and Location 07
Runway Length 5004
Runway Width 75
Sight Seeing flight No
Air Medical Flight No
Medical Flight --