On Feb. 8, 2019, a Piper PA-28-161 was substantially damaged when it hit a utility pole and trees during a forced landing near Vero Beach, Florida. The private pilot was uninjured.
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed for the local flight, which originated from the Vero Beach Regional Airport (KVRB).
According to the pilot, he was flying in the airport traffic pattern to practice touch-and-go landings. On his third approach, the air traffic controller directed him to extend the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. On final approach, the engine power output decreased, and the pilot noted a “sinking” feeling.
He did not perform any checklists, but advised air traffic control that he would be making an emergency landing. He advanced the throttle lever, and the engine momentarily produced more power before losing total power about 500-600 feet above ground level (agl) while the propeller continued to windmill.
The pilot noted he was not using Carburetor Heat at the time and that there was no time to perform remedial actions, such as switching fuel tanks, applying carburetor heat, or using the emergency checklist, but that he did retract the fully-extended flaps.
When he determined that he would not reach the runway, he executed a forced landing on a nearby gravel road. During the landing, the airplane hit a utility pole, trees, and shrubs, coming to rest in the grass after rotating 180°.
In a post-accident interview, when asked when he typically applied carburetor heat, the pilot responded that it was appropriate to apply carburetor heat when practicing a simulated engine out procedure. When asked if there were other instances when it might be appropriate to use carburetor heat, he reiterated that it was only appropriate for simulated engine out procedures.
The reported weather at KVRB included overcast clouds at 5,500 feet agl, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 050° at 9 knots. The temperature was 23°C, the dew point was 17°C, and the altimeter setting was 30.20 inches of mercury. The calculated relative humidity at this temperature and dewpoint was 71%.
According to a Carburetor Icing-Probability Chart, the atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident were “conducive to moderate icing at cruise power and serious icing at descent power.”
FAA Advisory Circular 20-113 explains, “To prevent accidents due to induction system icing, the pilot should regularly use [carburetor] heat under conditions
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