In a statement provided by the pilot, the fuel calculations for the flight in the Piper PA 18-150 were based on the fuel burn from the flight the day before.
On the day of the accident, the pilot used a clock timer from the time of engine start to estimate the longevity of the fuel supply. He and his passenger departed on a low altitude wildlife control flight.
When the timer read 4 hours and 22 minutes, the engine experienced a partial loss of power two consecutive times. The pilot restored the power both times by applying carburetor heat.
When the engine experienced a loss of power the third time, he attempted to restore the power by leaning the mixture control and adjusting the fuel selector.
Finally, the engine experienced a total loss of power and the pilot landed on a highway near Gordon, Neb., with a gusty quartering tailwind from the southwest.
During the landing roll, a gust of wind pushed the airplane to the right. It left the road, hit a fence, and a wooden pole, which resulted in substantial damage to the right wing and fuselage.
The FAA inspector determined that the airplane’s usable fuel supply had been exhausted. In a statement provided by the operator’s representative, the pilot stated that his fuel calculations were not correct and the fuel supply had been exhausted.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as a loss of engine power due to the pilot’s improper planning and miscalculation of the fuel supply, which resulted in fuel exhaustion.
NTSB Identification: CEN14CA137
This February 2014 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.