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Wed, Aug 07, 2019

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report From Illinois Icon A5 Accident

Pilot Walked Away Largely Uninjured, But The Airplane Was Badly Damaged

The NTSB has released a preliminary report from an accident involving an Icon A5 on July 11 in Illinois. The airplane collided with trees and terrain during a forced landing near Wheeling, IL. The private pilot was not injured, however the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was owned by CG 422 LLC. No flight plan was filed for the flight. Day VFR conditions prevailed at the accident site. The cross-country flight departed Eagle Creek Airpark (KEYE), Indianapolis, Indiana, at 1832, and was destined for Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK), Wheeling, Illinois.

The pilot reported that he and his wife own two identical Icon Aircraft A5 airplanes, serial numbers 51 and 48, respectively. Earlier on the day of the accident, the pilot and his wife flew from St Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS), Cahokia, Illinois, to KEYE, in a loose formation. The pilot stated that both airplanes departed KCPS with 17 gallons of fuel, as indicated on each airplane's fuel quantity gauge. The pilot reported that both airplanes had about 5 gallons of fuel remaining after completing the 2.9 hour flight from KCPS to KEYE. The pilot reported that the distance between KCPS and KEYE was about 202 nautical miles (nm) according to his flight planning software. After landing at KEYE, the pilot had each airplane serviced with 12 gallons of fuel. After refueling, the fuel quantity gauge of each airplane indicated 17 gallons. The pilot reported that his flight planning software calculated 13 gallons of fuel was required for the estimated 2.4 hour flight from KEYE to KPWK. The pilot noted that the distance between KEYE and KPWK was about 165 nm, and that he expected to land at KPWK with at least 4 gallons of fuel remaining.

The pilot reported that the flight from KEYE to KPWK was uneventful for about 2.3 hours at which time the engine began to lose power due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot stated that the loss of engine power occurred when the airplane was on a 3 mile left base leg for runway 16 at KPWK. The pilot reported the engine subsequently had a total loss of power and a forced landing was made in a forest preserve about 1.2 miles from the airport. The airplane collided with trees and terrain during the forced landing, which resulted in substantial damage to the composite fuselage and wings. The pilot noted that his wife was able to safely land her airplane at KPWK, and that her airplane had about 1.4 gallons (1.2 gallons usable) of fuel remaining after her 2.4 hour flight.

The airplane was powered by a Rotax 912iS Sport fuel injected 4-cylinder engine, rated at 100 hp at 5,800 rpm. The engine was equipped with an electric starter, dual-redundant ignition system, and a fully digital Engine Control Unit (ECU) that automatically adjusts fuel/air mixture throughout flight to maintain optimal performance, efficiency, and low emissions. The ECU also removes the need for a carburetor and associated mixture controls in the cockpit, making operation of the engine fully automatic for the pilot and eliminating the threat of carburetor icing. The commanded throttle position is sensed and transmitted to the ECU as a pilot request for specific power output. This signal is then combined with environmental inputs to provide the commanded response. The ECU adjusts the fuel/air mixture to ensure optimal performance. The normal operating range is from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm, with a redline of 5800 rpm.

The airplane's pilot operating handbook (POH) contains a flight limitation for a maximum continuous engine speed of 5,500 rpm. The POH also limits engine operation at 5,800 rpm to 5 minutes or less. The POH provides expected fuel consumption rates from sea level to 12,000 ft pressure altitude at engine speeds between 4,000 rpm and 5,500 rpm. According to the cruise performance tables, the expected fuel consumption rate at a cruise altitude of 3,000 ft and an engine speed of 5,500 rpm, with a standard temperature lapse rate, was about 5 gallons per hour. The POH does not provide fuel consumption rates for engine operations above 5,500 rpm.

The operator's manual for the Rotax 912iS engine states that the engine operates between two modes, economy and power, which have significantly different fuel consumption rates. The manual notes that the switchover between the economy and power modes occurs when the throttle position is advanced above 97%. In the economy mode, the expected fuel consumption rate was about 4.8 gallons per hour at 5,500 rpm and a manifold pressure of 27 inches of mercury. In the power mode, the expected fuel consumption rate was about 6.9 and 7.1 gallons per hour at 5,500 rpm and 5,800 rpm, respectively.

The airplane was equipped with a digital data module that recorded basic GPS, engine, and flight parameters. According to the recovered data, the airplane departed runway 3 at KEYE and proceeded north-northwest toward KPWK. A preliminary review of the available parameter data indicated that the flight from KEYE to KPWK was 2.3 hours at a cruise altitude of about 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl) and an engine manifold pressure of 26.5 to 27 inches of mercury. The engine data indicated that 60.4% of the flight, about 1.4 hours, was operated above 5,500 rpm. Additionally, the data indicated that about 74.6% of the flight, about 1.7 hours, was with the throttle positioned at or above 97% (where the engine normally switches between economy and power modes). The data indicated that about 52.5% of the flight, about 1.2 hours, was with the throttle positioned at 100%. Additionally, the engine had operated in power mode for 68.4% of the flight, about 1.6 hours.

A postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the fuel tank did not contain any useable fuel and the low fuel annunciator light was illuminated. Water was added to the fuel tank in 1 gallon increments to verify the accuracy of the fuel quantity gauge. The test results indicated that the low fuel light turned off after 1.75 gallons of water was added to the fuel tank. Additionally, the test results indicated that the fuel quantity gauge indicated on average about 1 to 1.5 gallons higher than the actual tank quantity.

(Image courtesy of Forest Preserves of Cook County police)

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