The pilot reported that the Piper PA 28-180’s engine lost power about five minutes after takeoff and that the starter would not engage to facilitate a restart.
He executed a landing on a highway near Sulphur, La., during which the landing gear collapsed.
After the accident, a first responder who held a pilot certificate examined the fuel tanks and found no fuel in the left fuel tank and that the right fuel tank was full. Additionally, the first responder found the fuel selector positioned to the left tank. No fuel leaks were detected.
During recovery of the airplane, 22 gallons of fuel were drained from the right wing fuel tank and about 3 ounces of fuel were drained from the left wing fuel tank.
The pilot provided fuel planning information that indicated that the airplane should have had sufficient fuel to complete the flight on a single tank, however, he did not position the fuel selector to the full tank. Therefore, it is likely that the engine power loss was due to fuel starvation.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to properly manage the airplane’s fuel supply, which led to fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: CEN14TA421
This August 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.