NTSB Identification: MIA97LA075.
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Accident occurred Saturday, January 25, 1997 in WHITEVILLE, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/02/1998
Aircraft: Aerospatiale SA315B, registration: N707EX
Injuries: 1 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.

During an aerial application flight, the low fuel level warning light illuminated. The pilot started his stop watch according to the airplane flight manual and about 6 minutes later while en route to refuel, the engine quit due to fuel exhaustion. While attempting to clear trees below the pilot purposely bleed the main rotor rpm which resulted in a hard landing. Post crash, fuel was added to the fuel tank and the engine was started and found to operate normally. Post accident testing revealed that when all fuel was drained from the full fuel tank the fuel gauge in the cockpit would register full unless the side of the fuel tank was contacted to dislodge the stuck fuel gauge transmitter. The pilot stated that he has brought the stuck fuel transmitter problem to the attention of the operator but review of the maintenance records revealed no record of the transmitter being repaired or replaced. Review of the flight manual revealed that once the low fuel light illuminates, to fly no longer than 10 minutes.

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

The pilot's intentional operation of the helicopter with known deficiencies in equipment and a false indication of the fuel gauge, resulting in the total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. Contributing to the accident was inadequate maintenance of the helicopter by company maintenance personnel, and unsuitable terrain encountered during the forced landing.

Full narrative available

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