Fuel exhaustion leads to street landing

This May 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.
Location: Las Vegas.
Injuries: 1 Minor.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The airplane had been in flight for four hours. The pilot was on approach for landing and two miles from the destination airport when the engine lost power. Attempts to restore engine power were unsuccessful. The airplane lacked sufficient altitude to glide to an airport, so the pilot initiated a forced landing on a city street.

The pilot said the street was clear until just before flare, when a car pulled into the path of the airplane. The airplane hit the car. The right wing separated during the collision, and the fuel tank ruptured.

The FAA inspector assigned to investigate the accident reported that there was no fuel in the tank remnants or spillage in the vicinity. The left wing was intact, and the fuel tank contained about 10 gallons of fuel. The post-accident investigation included running the aircraft engine. When supplied with fuel it ran normally.

Probable cause: Fuel starvation due to the pilot’s inadequate fuel system management.

For more information: NTSB.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20070710X00896&ntsbno=LAX07CA151&akey=1.

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