The pilot reported that, during the final portion of the planned two hour, 15-minute cross-country flight, about 10 miles from the destination airport and while descending through 4,000 foot mean sea level, the engine began to run roughly and eventually lost total power.
The RV-7 had insufficient altitude remaining to glide to the closest airport, so he completed a forced landing to a nearby road in Rockwall, Texas.
The pilot had to maneuver the plane over a row of trees shortly before landing, which reduced the airspeed below best glide speed, and, as a result, the RV-7 landed hard on the road.
The plane bounced and came to rest on its landing gear in a ditch located alongside the road.
A post-accident visual examination established that there was no usable fuel in either wing fuel tank. Additionally, both wing tanks appeared to be undamaged, and there was no evidence of a fuel leak.
The pilot reported that the plane was equipped with capacitive fuel sending units in each wing fuel tank. However, since their installation, the fuel sending units had been unreliable in providing accurate fuel levels.
He noted that he added 14 gallons of fuel to the right fuel tank and estimated that the fuel load was about 29 gallons before departure, which would have provided adequate fuel for the flight, however he did not visually confirm or measure the actual amount of fuel in the left wing fuel tank, which was not refueled before departure.
The pilot reported that the total loss of engine power experienced during the accident flight was due to fuel exhaustion.
Additionally, he stated that the accident could have been prevented if he had verified the actual amount of fuel available in both fuel tanks before departing on the flight.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to verify the airplane’s actual fuel quantity before departure, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and the subsequent forced landing.
NTSB Identification: CEN14LA293
This June 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.