NTSB: Faulty fuel gauge, wasp nest factors in pair of recent plane crashes

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A small plane crashed in Columbus County on Oct. 31, 2017 (Photo: The News Reporter/NRC Columbus.com)
A small plane crashed in Columbus County on Oct. 31, 2017 (Photo: The News Reporter/NRC Columbus.com)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — National Transportation Safety Board investigations show a faulty fuel gauge and a wasp nest may have been key factors in a pair of plane crashes this fall in southeastern North Carolina, including one that killed a pilot.

According to a preliminary report, a bad fuel gauge may have been a key factor in a fatal crash in Columbus County on Halloween. That morning a 1966 Beechcraft BE-35 Debonair flying from Lake City, FL, to Westerly, RI, crashed as it approached Columbus County Municipal Airport. Highway Patrol said the pilot, George Chartress, III, 62, died in the crash. The passenger, Richard Shawn, 58, suffered minor injuries.

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According to the report, the plane had flown most of the way using its right fuel tank before switching to the left. Before take off, Chartress switched back to the right, because it showed it had a higher fuel level. Shawn pointed out that could not be possible because they had flown on the right tank so long. The plane then lost power before crashing into trees near the airport. The investigation so far found that there was only 0.5 gallons of fuel in the right tank. Tests showed the gauge for that tank showed incorrect levels.

A plane crashed near the airport in Bladenboro on Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo: Bradley Kinlaw)
A plane crashed near the airport in Bladenboro on Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo: Bradley Kinlaw)

A wasp nest may have led to a problem before a plane crash landed into a Bladen County field last month. The Piper PA28-140 was forced to land in the field near the Bladenboro Airport on Nov. 18. Neither of the two people on board were hurt.

According to a preliminary report, the pilot told investigators he lost some power as he tried to circle the airport. He turned on the carburetor heat, but it did not restore power to the engine. The NTSB found a nest of mud daubers, a kind of wasp, in the carburetor heat control box. Investigators say that prevented the carburetor heat valve from fully opening.



The NTSB is also investigating a forced landing that damaged an amateur-built gyrocopter during a training flight at Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island Nov. 17. Two people were on board. Neither was hurt.