The pilot reported that the Piper PA 28-181 was operated on a visual flight rules night flight. He estimated that the plane had about 30 to 32 gallons of fuel prior to departure from the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC) in Denver, Colorado.
During the flight, intermittent electrical issues were experienced, including static in the headsets, flickering instrument panel lights, and a fluctuating ammeter gauge. Attempts were made to alleviate the electrical issues to no avail.
A touch and go landing was made at the Kit Carson Airport (ITR) in Burlington, Colorado, and a decision was made to shorten the flight and return to the departure airport.
The pilot reported that the fuel gauges indicated the plane had about 8 gallons remaining in each fuel tank about his time.
After 20 minutes had elapsed from the departure from ITR, the fuel gauges showed empty. The engine stopped producing power and the pilot switched to the opposite fuel tank. The engine restarted and the flight continued for about 4 to 5 more minutes when the engine again stopped producing power.
During the forced landing attempt near Strasburg, Colorado, the plane struck wires and subsequently hit the ground, resulting in one minor injury.
The pilot and the flight instructor stated that the airplane’s fuel load prior to departure should have been sufficient for a flight of about three hours. The total duration of the accident flight was about 2.25 hours.
Examination of the airplane after the accident revealed no fuel remaining in either wing tank. There was no evidence of a fuel spill and no preimpact anomalies were found with respect to the airplane’s fuel system.
The pilot reported that the accident could have been prevented by ordering more fuel prior to departure or obtaining fuel at ITR.
Based on the available information, it is likely that the airplane’s fuel supply was exhausted, resulting in a complete loss of engine power. It is also possible that the observed fuel gauge reading were innacurate given the electrical problems encountered during the flight.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the exhaustion of the fuel supply resulting in a complete loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: CEN15CA055
This November 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.