This May 2010 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Piper Warrior II. Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor. Location: Chandler, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot and CFI were performing touch-and-goes. When the airplane was turning to the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern they began to see smoke in the cockpit, which was likely coming through the defroster vents. With the airplane about 1,600 feet MSL, the CFI assumed authority of the controls and declared an emergency.
Within several seconds the smoke became so thick that the CFI could not see outside. He banked the airplane right with the intent of landing on the closet runway. The airplane touched down hard. After the airplane came to a stop, the CFI and the private pilot exited.
A review of the airplane maintenance logbooks revealed that the last annual inspection was completed two days before the accident, and had flown approximately four hours since that inspection.
An examination of the firewall revealed that its left side had a white coloration that turned to a black soot color on the right side, consistent with the fire originating on the left side of the engine. The fuel line leading from the engine-driven fuel pump to the carburetor was found disconnected at the fuel pump. There was no visible impact damage to the “B” nut on the line or to the fitting on the fuel pump, indicating the line was not connected at the time of impact. Based on this evidence, it is likely that the “B” nut on the line was not properly tightened, which allowed it to back off due to normal engine vibration, resulting in the line disconnecting during the flight. Pressurized fuel from the fuel pump then sprayed onto the left side of the exhaust system and ignited.
Probable cause: Failure of the maintenance personnel to ensure adequate torque of a fuel line fitting, which resulted in an in-flight fire.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10FA264
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