JETPROP CONVERSION OF PIPER PA-46-310P MALIBU, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C., AUG. 31, 2003–Trailing a whitish vapor from the left wing, according to a witness, the JetProp Malibu conversion was returning to the Hilton Head Airport for an emergency landing when it hit trees and caught fire. The left inboard fuel cap was missing from the filler port and was found in the grass beside the runway. A witness said he did not see the pilot perform a preflight inspection.
The NTSB blamed the accident on the pilot’s “failure to maintain control during a VFR pattern for a precautionary landing, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and subsequent collision with terrain. Also causal was the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in his failure to secure the fuel cap.”
JetProp N70DL, powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 turbine, was registered to Hickory Travel. The pilot and passenger were killed, and the airplane was destroyed.
Minutes after the pilot announced his takeoff on the radio, a CFI heard him declare an emergency and announce an immediate return. Another witness heard him say what may have been “cover off.”
The airplane was found in flames in a wooded area less than a mile from the airport.
The airplane was fueled before the flight. The lineman who fueled the right wing stated he secured the fuel cap by “turning a quarter turn left to right and…placed the tab down.” The lineman who fueled the left wing stated he secured the left cap and “closed and locked cap back and rechecked to make sure cap was closed and locked…”
The cap is secured in the filler port by aligning the lobes on the underside of the cap with the slots in the filler port, then twisting the cap until it sits flush with the word “aft” in the aft position. It is not possible to seat the cap flush in the filler port unsecured with the word “aft” in the aft position but it is possible to seat the cap flush in the filler port unsecured with the word “aft” between the inboard and forward positions