An experienced pilot is said to have requested then watched as a lineman filled his piston-powered Piper Aerostar with Jet A fuel. The pilot, Dr. Daniel Greenwald, a successful Tampa-area plastic surgeon, was killed when the Aerostar crashed shortly after takeoff from the Kokomo, Indiana, airport.
Robert Losurdo, who owns the flight instruction company that Greenwald was working for, told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s convinced that Greenwald would never have intentionally asked the Aerostar to be loaded with Jet A.
According to the NTSB’s preliminary factual report on the accident, “the airport employee who fueled the airplane, [said] he asked the pilot of N326CW, while on approach to the airport, if he wanted jet fuel, and the pilot said ‘yes.’ When the airplane arrived, the employee pulled the Jet A fuel truck out and parked it in front of the airplane while the pilot was still inside the airplane. The employee said that he asked the pilot again if he was wanted jet fuel, and the pilot said ‘yes.’ The employee fueled the airplane with about 163 gallons of Jet A from the fuel truck.” The report noted that the fuel trunk had prominent “Jet A” markings on its sides and back.
The normal checks and balances are bolstered by the design of Jet A fuel nozzles, which are built to not fit into the filler ports of piston aircraft. Nevertheless, according to the NTSB prelim, “The [FBO] employee said that he was able to orientate the different shaped nozzle (relative to the 100 low lead fuel truck nozzle) from the Jet A fuel truck by positioning it 90 degrees over the wing fuel tank filler necks and about 45 degrees over the fuselage filler necks. He said the he initially spilled about one gallon of fuel during refueling and adjusted his technique so subsequent fuel spillage was minimal.”
All of this took place soon after the pilot landed and the airplane sat while he conducted his business on the airport. The NTSB report continues, saying that “the employee that was inside the fixed base operator building about 1620 heard the engines start. After the engines started, the engines sounded ‘typical.’ He said that he did not hear any radio transmissions from the pilot during his departure and did not hear an engine runup.”
Another pilot, who had received flight training from the accident pilot, said he drove the pilot back to the Aerostar and watched him as he “visually checked the fuel tanks of the airplane and gave a ‘thumbs-up,’” according to the report. This second pilot “heard the engines start and ‘they sounded normal.’”
The Aerostar crashed less than four miles south of the Kokomo airport and, according to the NTSB, post-accident examination “revealed the presence of a clear liquid consistent in color and order with that of Jet A in a fuselage tank and in the fuel lines leading to the fuel manifolds of both engines. Several of the engine spark plugs exhibited damage consistent with detonation.”