Aircraft: Piper Pacer. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Elgin, S.C. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was on a cross-country flight. While en route, a witness observed an airplane flying at a slow airspeed between 200 and 300 feet above the ground, and noted that the engine was revving up and down as if it was running out of fuel. The nose pitched up, then the airplane went down behind a line of trees where it crashed and exploded in flames.
The post-accident examination revealed the fuel selector was on the right main tank and the tank was out of fuel.
The airplane had two 18-gallon fuel tanks with a total capacity of 36 gallons. The cruise airspeed for the airplane is 126 mph. The straight-line distance from the departure airport to the crash site is 607 miles. According to the engine-operating manual, the engine will burn 7.2 gallons of fuel per hour at 75% power and 6.3 gallons of fuel per hour at 65% power. In a no wind condition at 75% power, it would take four hours and 50 minutes to fly from the departure airport to the accident site. At 65% power it would take five hours and 33 minutes to fly to the accident site. Based on a straight line, no wind, and non-maneuvering flight profile, available fuel range would be about 523 nautical miles. These calculations do not account for fuel consumed during the start, taxi, and take off sequence. The pilot exceeded the fuel endurance, and the engine lost power. Also, the high-pitch attitude of the airplane observed by the witness could have resulted in the stall.
Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion resulting from the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning. Contributing to the accident was that the pilot did not maintain an adequate airspeed, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
NTSB Identification: ERA11FA210
This March 2011 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.