NTSB Identification: LAX96LA264.
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Accident occurred Saturday, July 06, 1996 in LANAI, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/16/1996
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N4319J
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot rented the aircraft for an inter-island personal cross-country flight. According to the pilot, he departed Honolulu with full fuel tanks (48 useable gallons) and flew to the island of Molokai, where a full stop landing was made. About 15 minutes later, he departed and flew to the island of Maui, where another full stop landing was made. The aircraft was on the ground for 40 minutes, then departed for Hilo on the island of Hawaii, arriving 47 minutes later at 1530. After 25 minutes on the ground, the flight departed Hilo for a nonstop return to Honolulu over a direct route. The pilot stated that while on the ground at Hilo he estimated the fuel used to that point at 26 gallons, and further estimated that the remaining 22 gallons were sufficient to 'easily be able to fly back to Honolulu and have a 30 minute reserve.' The pilot did not refuel while at the Hilo airport. One hour 20 minutes into the return flight he noticed that the left fuel gage was decreasing rapidly and immediately checked the aircraft exterior for signs of leakage and found none. With the fuel selector on the left tank, the engine began to lose power and the pilot switched to the right tank, then contacted Honolulu CERAP, declared a low fuel state, and requested radar vectors to the nearest airport. The controller provided a heading to an airport on Lanai, about 27 miles distant. At 1816, the engine lost all power and the aircraft was forced to ditch in the ocean. The pilot and passenger exited the aircraft into the water before it sank and were picked up 25 minutes later by a passing boat. Of the 5 hours 3 minutes elapsed from the time the pilot departed Honolulu until the accident, 3 hours 43 minutes was flight time, and 1 hour 20 minutes was ground time. The pilot did not have floatation or survival gear onboard the aircraft. The water depth at the accident site is in excess of 600 feet and the aircraft has not been recovered.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate fuel planning and failure to refuel the aircraft prior to initiating a 280-mile over water nonstop leg of the flight.

Full narrative available

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