NTSB releases cause of 2014 Alabaster plane crash

Published 11:01 am Thursday, August 6, 2015

The NTSB recently released the probable cause of a Jan. 1, 2014, plane crash in an Alabaster neighborhood. (File)

The NTSB recently released the probable cause of a Jan. 1, 2014, plane crash in an Alabaster neighborhood. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – A Bellanca 17-30A single-engine aircraft crashed in the backyard of an Alabaster residence on New Year’s Day 2014 likely because the plane’s fuel selector switch was set to a nearly empty fuel tank, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The aircraft was en route from the Bessemer Airport to the Shelby County Airport on Jan. 1, 2014, and crashed at about 2 p.m., missing a residence on 10th Street Southwest by only a few feet. The crash site was atop a steep ridge leading down to Buck Creek.

According to the NTSB report, the 49-year-old pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after he experienced a total loss of engine power during the flight between the two airports.

Alabaster Fire Chief Jim Golden previously said the pilot removed himself from the downed aircraft and was conscious and alert when emergency responders arrived on the scene. The pilot was transported by ambulance to UAB Hospital to be treated for non life-threatening injuries.

The homeowners at the crash site were not home when the crash happened.

“The pilot stated that, while en route on the approximate 11-mile flight, the engine began to ‘stumble’ and run roughly,” read the NTSB report issued on June 22. “The pilot activated the fuel boost pump, but, shortly thereafter, the engine experienced a total loss of power.”

While NTSB investigators were examining the downed aircraft, they discovered about half a gallon of fuel in its left main fuel tank, while the right main fuel tank contained about 10.5 gallons of fuel. Fuel lines leading to the engine were “absent of fuel,” and no fuel was found in the auxiliary fuel tank, according to the report.

NTSB investigators tested the plane’s engine, and found the engine to be running properly, according to the report.

Although the airplane’s fuel selector was found set to the right main tank position during post-accident examination, based on the lack of fuel in the fuel lines and gascolator, it is likely that it was set to the left main or the auxiliary fuel tank during the flight and moved to the right main tank position just before or after impact,” read the report.