NTSB Identification: SEA97LA052.
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Accident occurred Sunday, January 26, 1997 in CHEHALIS, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/14/1997
Aircraft: Piper PA-28RT-201, registration: N344LC
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Minor.

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 first pilot (PIC) and his father, the second pilot, shared the duties of a preflight inspection on the airplane in preparation to perform some touch-and-go landings. The second pilot visually checked both fuel tanks and noted that the left tank was low. He stated that he had mentioned this to the first pilot, and the first pilot did not 'carefully note.' The first pilot selected the left tank for the flight because the left fuel quantity gauge was erroneously indicating a full tank. During the third touch-and-go takeoff, the engine was starved of fuel and suddenly lost all power about 300 feet above the ground. The second pilot, who was also a CFI, immediately took the controls, banked the airplane to the right to avoid trees, and force landed the airplane into an open corn field. The right wing struck the ground during the landing and the airplane nosed over. No preimpact mechanical deficiencies were found with the engine. An examination of the left cockpit fuel quantity gauge revealed that the needle was captured between a deformed face plate and a sticky substance found beneath the glass. The source of the deformation and substance could not be determined.

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

The failure of the first pilot to conduct an adequate preflight inspection, and his failure to properly manage the aircraft fuel supply. This led to fuel starvation and a subsequent loss of engine power. Factors contributing to the accident are the false indication of the left cockpit fuel quantity gage due to the presence of a foreign substance and a deformed face plate, and unsuitable terrain available for a successful forced landing.

Full narrative available

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