According to flight service station records, the private pilot had planned a cross-country flight that was expected to be about 465 miles long and to take about 3 hours and 15 minutes.
The first two-thirds of the flight were uneventful, but the pilot diverted to an alternate airport because the passenger needed a rest stop. He did not purchase fuel at the this airport and resumed the flight.
According to air traffic control records, while on final approach to the destination airport near Savannah, Georgia, an air traffic controller noted that the Piper PA-28R was low after turning onto the final leg of the traffic pattern and advised the pilot to check his altitude. The pilot did not respond.
The airplane then departed controlled flight and crashed, seriously injuring both the pilot and the passenger.
Neither the pilot nor the passenger could recall any events leading up to the accident.
Examination of the wreckage found damage characteristics to the propeller and engine that were indicative of a loss of engine power; however, no preimpact mechanical malfunctions were found.
Both fuel tanks were found compromised, but no evidence of fuel was found at the accident site.
At the time of the power loss, the airplane had flown a total of about 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Airplane performance data revealed that the engine consumed about 10 gallons per hour, not including fuel used during taxi, takeoff, and climb. Given that the airplane did not have any fuel on board, it likely was not filled to its total capacity of 50 gallons at departure.
Further, the unplanned landing increased the amount of fuel the airplane would have burned, and the pilot likely did not account for this while managing the fuel in flight.
Given the evidence, it is likely that the loss of engine power resulted from fuel exhaustion.
Further, once the engine lost power, the pilot did not maintain adequate airspeed and exceeded the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack on approach to the airport, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight fuel planning and in-flight fuel management, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a total loss of engine power during approach. Contributing to the accident were the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance of the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
NTSB Identification: ERA16LA007
This October 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.
Ho hum. This accident reads like many others.
FWIW, for all intents, the EP to use when pilot error that results in fuel exhaustion is no different for any mechanical power plant malfunction… at least when performing an emergency landing. The pilot needed to review Mark Johnson’s article about “engine failure at 2,000 feet” published just yesterday by GANews. FLY THE AIRPLANE!!! This pilot didn’t, and suffered the consequences. He evidently did not dip his tanks before departing from his intermediate stop at Jacksonville, FL. Nor did he dip his tanks before departing from the Miami area. Based on the absence of any fuel in the tanks and his passenger’s statements the pilot did not monitor his fuel as the aircraft flew the entire length of Florida and north to Savanah, Georgia (AT NIGHT!). Not directly mentioned in the linked accident report was the absence of any restraints other than lap belts. It’s no surprise that both the pilot and passenger suffered serious injuries when they crashed through the tops of trees on approach. The pilot evidently had no clue of his pending engine stoppage due to fuel exhaustion. The aircraft was configured to land (flaps, wheels down) and on final when it became a night time glider. Was the cockpit conversation so interesting that he (the pilot) was on ‘auto pilot’? His passenger described the initial pre-flight as methodical and with attention to detail. Maybe, but evidently not.
Poor headline…. Gravity brought the aircraft back to earth… Not fuel exhaustion (think about gliders)…..the real problem was the PIC…and the decisions the PIC made….aircraft and engine did exactly what they were designed to do…the headline does nothing to educate the reader to the actual problem…the AIRSPACE BETWEEN THE PIC EAR DRUMS !!!