According to the pilot, he purchased the Cessna 172 and planned to fly it across the country “via the southern route.”
The aircraft seller informed the pilot that the battery held a limited charge, but asserted that the plane could be flown if the pilot charged the battery and disengaged the master after takeoff.
Prior to departure, a mechanic charged the battery for about an hour.
The pilot had planned to depart, fly for about four hours and then begin to look for an airport to land and obtain fuel. Once he reached his cruising altitude he disengaged the “master.”
After about four hours of flight and in nighttime conditions, he found an airport beacon, reengaged the “master” and attempted to activate the runway lights.
After several unsuccessful attempts and with the cockpit lights beginning to dim, he elected to conserve battery power and find a new airport.
About 30 minutes later he found another airport beacon.
The airplane “ran out of gas” over a residential area three miles from the pilot’s final destination.
The pilot made a turn to line the airplane up with a street, however, during the descent to land, the plane collided with tree tops and subsequently hit the ground near Carlisle, Pa., resulting in substantial damage to the engine firewall and both wings and serious injuries to the pilot.
He reported the “electrical system failed in the last few minutes of flight” as the only mechanical failure.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s decision to depart with a known mechanical malfunction and his improper fuel planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and subsequent impact with terrain during an off-airport landing.
NTSB Identification: ERA14CA171
This March 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.