The pilot was towing a banner along a beach in Carlsbad, California, when the Piper PA 18-150’s engine gradually lost power, and applying carburetor heat had no effect.
A forced landing was initiated on the beach, and during the landing roll the plane hit a person before it nosed over into the surf.
The engine mount, right wing, and right rear lift strut were substantially damaged.
Post-accident examination on site revealed that the fuel selector valve was in the left tank position. A follow up examination determined that no fuel was visible in the left fuel tank site gauge inside the cockpit area. The right wing filler cap was removed, and fuel was observed in the right tank. Fuel drained from the sump at the rear of the right tank, but nothing drained from the sump at the rear of the left tank. No fuel drained from the gascolator on the firewall.
The operator reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures of the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to manage the fuel system properly during a banner tow operation resulting in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: WPR15CA207
This July 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.