NTSB Identification: MIA96FA233.
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Accident occurred Thursday, September 26, 1996 in BIRMINGHAM, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/02/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N8803J
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot used 8 gallons per hour fuel consumption for the the planned 4-hour flight, with enough fuel for 5 hours. About midpoint of the flight the flight descended to 6,000 feet from the planned 8,000 feet per the pilots request. Slight vectoring was required during the flight for weather avoidance. The passenger reported that when the flight was near the destination, the pilot observed that the fuel gauges were indicating empty, but after observing the city lights near the destination airport he elected to continue the flight. While being vectored onto final approach for a localizer approach the engine experienced a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. During the forced landing to a highway the airplane collided with unmarked power lines and a vehicle. The right rear seat passenger was ejected from the airplane during the impact sequence. A 2 foot by 2 foot fuel stain on the ground was noted beneath the left wing fuel tank, and 8 ounces of fuel were drained from the right wing fuel tank. Examination of the carburetor revealed worn material on the float needle valve, that the float adjustment was out of limits, and that the economizer jet was improperly adjusted. Examination of the right rear seat cable assembly revealed the swaged fitting was separated and not located. Corrosion and wear was not noted on the cable and the cable strands exhibited evidence of tensile overstress failure. Review of the aircraft logbooks revealed the carburetor was last overhauled in 1967, and was installed in January 1968. The engine was overhauled in 1976, but the carburetor had not been overhauled since 1967. A non-mandatory service bulletin requires carburetor overhaul every 10 years or when the engine is overhauled, whichever occurs first.

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

The pilot-in-command's improper in-flight planning/decision for electing to continue the flight after observing that the fuel gauges indicated empty. Contributing to the accident was an improperly adjusted economizer jet and an out of adjustment float. Also contributing to the accident was unsuitable terrain encountered during the forced landing.

Full narrative available

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