The pilot reported that, while en route, the Piper PA-28’s engine began to run roughly and lose power. He immediately turned toward the nearest airport and slowed the airplane to 100 knots.
He added that he pushed the mixture to full rich, which caused a short burst of power that lasted just a few seconds.
He then pumped the throttle and applied carburetor heat, but then realized he did not have enough altitude to make the airport and began to look for an alternate landing site.
The pilot further added that, after locating a ridgetop field near Butler, Kentucky, he slowed the airplane to 75 knots and pulled one notch of flaps and trimmed for landing.
As he lined the airplane up with the field, he pulled full flaps about 300 feet above the ground. The touchdown was smooth, and the airplane continued the landing roll in 3-foot-tall wheat.
Subsequently, the right wing hit an industrial irrigation nozzle, and the right wing separated from the fuselage. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing and stabilator.
The pilot added that, during the engine failure, he did not attempt to change the fuel tank from the empty right wing fuel tank. He recommended the fuel selector check should be made the first part of the restart procedure.
The FAA inspector reported that, while on scene, he was able to run the engine. He added that the left tank was about 1/2 full of fuel. He switched the fuel selector to the left tank and started the engine normally. The oil pressure was fine, the fuel pressure was normal on both the electric pump and engine-driven pump; and the magnetos checked fine.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: GAA18CA307
This May 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.