NTSB Identification: CHI97LA003.
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Accident occurred Saturday, October 05, 1996 in SILVER LAKE, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/1997
Aircraft: Piper PA-16, registration: N5749H
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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 aircraft was topped off at Ames, Iowa, prior to the last leg of the flight. The lineman reported that he opened the left fuel cap and observed that the left tank was full. He replaced the cap and refueled the right fuel tank. The pilot reported he did not visually check the fuel level, but relied on visually checking the fuel caps from behind the wing. The aircraft burned an average of 7.5 gph fuel. The aircraft had 4.5 to 4.8 hours of fuel on board. The flight lasted about 3.7 hours. Witnesses reported the aircraft circling at about 300 feet AGL and the engine sputtering before it quit. The left wing hit a tree before the aircraft impacted the ground. The aircraft skidded up on its nose with the tail nearly vertical. The examination of the aircraft revealed that a fuel stain initiating from the left fuel cap and streaming towards the rear of the wing was clearly visible. The engine and flight controls exhibited continuity. There were open fields near the crash site. The pilot reported that the fuel gauges were unreliable.

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

fuel starvation due to an inadequate preflight and the pilot performed a low altitude maneuver which prevented him from selecting suitable terrain for landing. Additional factors included the loose fuel cap, fuel siphoning, and unreliable fuel gauges.

Full narrative available

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