The pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to determine how much unusable fuel was in the experimental amateur-built airplane’s fuel tanks.
The Fisher Classic took off with a full header tank and only 1 gallon of fuel in each wing tank.
After takeoff, the pilot climbed to about 3,500 feet. About three miles from the airport, he switched from the header tank to the right fuel tank. Shortly after, the engine suddenly stopped, and the propeller stopped turning. He quickly switched back to the header tank.
Since the plane was not equipped with a starter, he initiated a dive to attempt to get the propeller spinning, but was unsuccessful in restarting the engine.
He leveled the airplane to attain its best glide speed and proceeded toward a road. He subsequently landed the airplane on a rocky riverbank short of the road near Redlands, California. The pilot sustained minor injuries.
He reported there were no mechanical failures or malfunctions with the engine or airframe that would have precluded normal operation.
He further reported that he should have considered the possibility that the engine might stop and that he should have flown the airplane at a higher altitude and remained closer to the airport where he could have made a dead-stick landing if necessary.
Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate planning for the test flight, which resulted in insufficient altitude and no suitable place to land in the event of an emergency.
NTSB Identification: WPR15LA123
This March 2015 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.