NTSB Identification: MIA97LA156.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, May 07, 1997 in WILGROVE, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/02/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N3976R
Injuries: 3 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 pilot had contacted Charlotte Approach Control, and requested assistance. The airplane was radar identified, and given the location of the airport. Radar and radio contact was lost, and a short time later, approach control was notified by the police that the airplane had crashed. The airplane impacted in a residential area. There was no damage to property or any injuries to any persons on the ground. According to the passengers they were flying back from Florida when '...motor cut off minutes from runway, started back up again ran for about 20 seconds, shut down again...would not start again.' Examination of the wreckage revealed that the fuel system was not breached, the fuel pump switch was in the 'ON' position, and the fuel selector was selected to the left tank. No fuel was found in the tanks, or the fuel lines, and there was no evidence of fuel spillage in the crash area. There was about '1 ounce' of fuel that was drained from the fuel sediment bowl. The fuel from the bowl was clean and 'free of foreign matter.' The last known fuel input was shortly before midnight on May 6, 1997, in Jacksonville, Florida. The engine was examined, and revealed no discrepancies. According to the Piper PA-28-180 manual, this model airplane's fuel consumption was about 13.5 gallon per hour (gph). The airplane held 50 gallons total, of which 48 was usable. The distance flown from the last refueling was about 450 miles, and the duration of the flight was about 4 to 5 hours. The exact time of departure is unknown, but the airplane was refuel around midnight at the last reported refueling stop. Several attempts were made to have the pilot return the NTSB Form 6120.1/2, and it was received on September 4, 1997. According to his statement they landed at Fernandina Beach Airport, Florida, 'to purchase fuel,' May 6, 1997, continued to Ft. Lauderdale, with an approximate arrival around 1800. He returned to the FBO around 2200, and 'fill[ed] the plane with fuel' and before going to Charlotte. They stopped at Jacksonville, and said that he ' fill the airplane again.' The 'best I recall,' when we left Jacksonville, it was approximately 03:00 [0300] to 03:30 A.M [0330]. In addition the pilot said, '...after we were airborne is the end of my memory until about 3 1/2 weeks later....' .

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

the pilot's improper planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a forced landing short of the intended destination airport.

Full narrative available

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