The pilot reported that, although the Piper PA-32’s fuel gauge was providing intermittent information, he decided to depart on a night cross-country flight.
During the flight, the engine lost power.
The pilot declared an emergency and selected a road near Big Spring, Texas, to land on. During the landing, the airplane struck power line wires, hit the ground, and came to rest inverted.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the engine mounts, the rudder and the horizontal stabilizer.
Examination of the airplane by an FAA safety inspector revealed that the fuel selector was set to the right-wing tank, and there was no usable fuel in the right-wing tank. The left-wing tank contained usable fuel.
Per Title 14 CFR 91.205, no person may operate a powered civil aircraft with a standard category US airworthiness certificate with an inoperative fuel gauge.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to manage the airplane’s fuel supply, which resulted in fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to attempt the flight with an inoperative fuel gauge.
NTSB Identification: GAA18CA152
This March 2018 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.