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NTSB reports on fatal Nashville accident

Piper Turbo Lance destroyed in Interstate 40 emergency landing attempt

A preliminary report from the NTSB notes evidence including a misplaced fuel tank selector valve that suggests a possible reason why a Piper Turbo Lance attempted to land on Interstate 40 in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 4 after reporting an engine failure. The pilot died, along with his wife and three children.

The NTSB used ADS-B data to create this image showing the flight path of the Piper Turbo Lance that attempted an emergency landing on Interstate 40 in Nashville March 4.

No motorists were hurt in the accident.

The report (available from the NTSB accident investigation database, search for accident ERA24FA127), includes details of the accident flight gleaned from eyewitnesses, ADS-B data, air traffic control audio, and examination of the PA-32RT-300T flown by Victor Dotsenko, 43, of King Township, Ontario. His passengers were his wife, Rimma, 39, and the couple's three children, David, 12; Adam, 10; and Emma, 7.

The preliminary report notes the accident flight was the third of a day that began more than seven hours before the accident (at 12:22 p.m. Central time) in Brampton, Ontario, with stops in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Dotsenko took on fuel at both Erie International Airport/Tom Ridge Field, and Mount Sterling/Montgomery County Airport, according to the report, before departing for John C. Tune Airport in Nashville, Tennessee, about 180 miles away. The family departed at 7:15 p.m. and made an uneventful flight into Nashville International Airport's airspace, with routine communication with approach control before the flight was handed off to the tower at John C. Tune Airport in preparation for landing.

Rather than land, the aircraft overflew Runway 20 at about 2,500 feet, level. “The [JWN] controller handed the pilot back to the BNA controller because the pilot elected to overfly the airport for unknown reasons and was in the BNA airspace at that altitude. The BNA controller remained in contact with the pilot through the rest of the flight,” the NTSB report states.

A faint transmission from the pilot indicating engine failure prompted the Nashville International Airport controller to query the pilot’s intention. “My engine turned off, I’m at one thousand, six hundred,” Dotsenko responded, according to the preliminary report. “I’m going to be landing, I don’t know where.”

After the controller cleared the pilot to make an emergency landing on Runway 2, “the pilot indicated that he had the runway in sight but was too far away to make it.”

The aircraft descended over a residential area on a heading of roughly 80 degrees, then over Interstate 40, “where it impacted the shoulder of the eastbound lanes before it struck an embankment and caught fire."

One witness told investigators they heard the engine was “sputtering and making popping sounds” as the aircraft descended.

While much of the aircraft was destroyed in the post-crash fire (a fireball that prompted one 911 caller to report taking evasive action, according to the Associated Press), investigators found some instruments were still readable, including the vertical speed indicator reading a descent of 400 feet per minute, and a fire-damaged manifold pressure and fuel flow gauge reading 15 inches of manifold pressure and zero fuel flow. Compressed air pumped into the fuel system pushed fuel out of cylinders 1, 3, and 5, while “no fuel was pushed out of Nos. 2, 4, and 6.” Investigators found the propeller was largely intact with no signs of being rotated under power on impact. Investigators found the engine largely intact, with no signs of preimpact oil leakage or other mechanical findings that suggest a cause of the failure. The crankshaft rotated without grinding or limitation, and the magnetos were bench-tested and functional; the spark plugs were also found in normal operating condition.

Investigators reported that the fuel selector valve, part of an assembly that was significantly damaged by impact and subsequent fire, was not found in a position that would allow normal fuel flow:

“The fuel selector handle, fuel selector valve/fuel strainer, and fuel selector torque tube were fire damaged and deformed by impact forces and were separated from the airframe. The fuel selector valve was found between the off and left main tank positions, slightly favoring the left tank position. The fuel selector valve/fuel strainer was opened revealing significant carbon and fire damage.”

Investigators noted that while the left wing was mostly destroyed by impact and fire, they reported no indication the flight controls had been compromised prior to impact.

Jim Moore
Jim Moore
Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Training and Safety, Accident

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