The pilot estimated that he departed on the 10-minute, 16-mile, local flight with one fuel tank about half full and the other tank about a quarter full. He did not recall which tank he had the fuel selector positioned to during takeoff.
During descent for landing, he observed the engine rpm decrease to between 500 and 600 rpm, at which time he declared an emergency.
He switched fuel tanks but did not remember which tank he selected or whether the engine lost total power.
The pilot made a forced landing on the roof of an industrial office building in Pomona, California. The pilot was seriously injured in the crash.
During examination of the airplane after it was recovered from the roof of the building, about 7.5 gallons of fuel was drained from the left wing, and about 1 quart of fuel was drained from the right wing. No visible contamination was observed.
The fuel selector was selected to the right tank position. Other than the absence of fuel in the right tank, examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal engine operation.
Further, the lack of rotational damage to the propeller was consistent with a loss of engine power before impact.
While atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident were conducive to carburetor ice, the physical evidence supports the position that total loss of engine power was due to fuel starvation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s mismanagement of the available fuel, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: WPR16FA103
This May 2016 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.