Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ERA10LA031

Brooksville, FL, USA

Aircraft #1




The airplane was 10 minutes into the flight and had just reached a cruise altitude of 2,800 feet above mean sea level when the engine lost power. After unsuccessfully attempting to restart the engine, the pilot attempted a forced landing at an airport off to his left. Approaching the airport, the airplane’s right wing hit a tree and the airplane impacted the ground 400 yards short of the runway. The airplane sustained damage to the wing, fuselage, and propeller. The responding Federal Aviation Administration inspector observed 1/4 gallon of fuel in the right wing fuel tank and no fuel in the left wing tank. There was no evidence of fuel leakage in flight or at the accident site. The wreckage recovery crew reported that they were able to drain 3 quarts of fuel from the airplane. A postaccident engine run was conducted with the engine producing power at high and low rpm settings.

Factual Information

On October 25, 2009, at 1410 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, N7220W, collided with a tree while making a force landing following a loss of engine power near Pilot Country Airport (X05), Brooksville, Florida. The pilot and passenger sustained serious injuries, and the airplane incurred substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, from Hidden Lake Airport (FA40), New Port Richey, Florida, to Zephyrhills Municipal Airport (ZPH), Zephyrhills, Florida. The airplane was operated by an individual, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight. The pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to top off the airplane with fuel at ZPH, and that during his preflight inspection he visually checked the fuel levels in each tank, observing that one tank had more fuel than the other. From his calculations based on the prior 25 hours of flight time, which was his total time in the recently purchased airplane, the fuel consumption was 8.5 to 9 gallons per hour. Based on those calculations, the pilot believed a total of 12 gallons of usable fuel were on board the airplane before its departure. The pilot also recalled that the airplane was cruising at an altitude of 2,800 feet above mean sea level (msl) and about 10 minutes into the flight when, without warning, the engine quit running. The pilot elected to land at the X05, which was off to his left. The pilot attempted two restarts, switching fuel tank positions in the process; however, the engine never restarted. He could not recall if the propeller rotated during the restart attempts. He then maneuvered the airplane to land on runway 36 at X05, but the airplane’s right wing collided with a tree. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground left-wing-low and nose-low about 400 yards short of the airport. Both occupants exited the airplane and called for assistance. The pilot stated that the airplane was topped off on October 19, 2009. The airplane could hold a total of 50 gallons, of which, 2 were unusable. He had flown a total of eight flights of 30 minutes each between FA40 and Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), Lakeland, Florida since the top off. The first responders reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector on scene that there was no visual indication or odor of fuel at the accident site. The FAA inspector observed about 1/4 gallon of fuel in the right wing tank and no fuel in the left wing fuel tank at the wreckage site. The fuel gascolator separated from the airplane and the fuel tank selector was in the right fuel tank position. The wreckage recovery crew reported that they collected a total of 3 quarts of aviation fuel from the airplane during the recovery process. An engine run was conducted at the salvage recovery facility where the wreckage was taken with National Transportation Safety Board oversight. The engine was attached to the airframe, minus the wings, and secured on the transportation trailer. The propeller and flywheel were replaced with serviceable components due to impact damage. A fuel supply was connected to the engine’s fuel system. The engine started and produced power at high and low rpm settings. The airplane’s Type Certificate Data Sheets makes reference to a fuel capacity of 50 gallons usable and of those, 2 gallons are unusable. The Textron Lycoming, 5th edition, Operator’s Manual, for the O-360 and associated model engines makes reference to a fuel consumption of 10.5 gallons per hour at a 75% power setting

Probable Cause and Findings

A loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the pilot’s inadequate preflight fuel planning.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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