The flight instructor and student pilot departed their home airport with about 34 gallons of fuel on board the Piper PA-28 for a planned 60-mile, round-trip, cross-country instructional flight.
The student pilot reported that, after landing at the destination airport, they completed two more full-stop landings before returning to, and then landing uneventfully at, the airport in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
The flight instructor wanted the student pilot to complete one more landing before concluding the lesson. The student stated that, during the subsequent takeoff, everything seemed normal until he turned the airplane onto the crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern, at which time the engine lost all power.
The flight instructor then took control of the airplane. He reported that he chose not to attempt to turn back and glide to the airport because the airplane was about 500 feet above ground level.
He subsequently performed a forced landing straight ahead into trees. Both fuel tanks were compromised during the impact, and the fuel quantity at impact could not be determined.
Subsequently, an engine test run was performed with no anomalies noted.
Both pilots reported that they did not switch the fuel tanks following the total loss of engine power.
The student pilot further stated that the airplane “ran out of gas.”
Review of performance information for the make and model airplane revealed that, based on the reported fuel onboard the airplane at the beginning of the day, it should have had between five and 10 gallons of fuel remaining at the time of the accident.
Although the amount of fuel in each fuel tank could not be determined, the loss of engine power likely resulted from a lack of available fuel in the selected tank.
Because the flight instructor was the pilot-in-command and told the student to conduct another landing, he should have been more cognizant of the fuel level in the tanks.
Probable cause: The flight instructor’s inadequate fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power during initial climb due to fuel starvation and a subsequent forced landing.
NTSB Identification: ERA16LA051
This November 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.