NTSB Identification: SEA97FA130.
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Accident occurred Friday, June 06, 1997 in TILLAMOOK, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/30/1998
Aircraft: Lockheed P-38L, registration: N7973
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
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 aircraft (P-38) had been topped off with full reserve & main fuel tanks (44 US gal/engine reserve tanks & 72 gal/engine main tanks). The pilot took off with about 20 minutes fuel having been already consumed. Operating with another P-38 within the airport area, the 2 aircraft flew about 20 to 25 minutes each. The fuel consumption was reported nominally at 60 gallons/hour/engine (1 gal/minute). With 44 gallons of fuel in each RESERVE tank for the duration of both flights, the engines would have exhausted all available fuel in each RESERVE tank after about 44 minutes. Both fuel selectors were found on the RESERVE setting at the site. No mechanical malfunction was found with either propeller or engine. The flaps & landing gear were retracted. According to the Pilot's Manual (flight manual), if one engine fails below 120 mph (safe single-engine airspeed), the pilot is to 'close both throttles and land straight ahead.' The flight manual did not provide any information for aircraft minimum control speeds with the flaps fully retracted. Several witnesses reported the aircraft was slow while turning base. Since this was a single-seat aircraft, there was no provision for 'dual' instructional training in single-engine procedures or spin recovery. The pilot was reported to have flown 6 or 7 hours in another P-38, which included practice simulated single-engine maneuvers, but no actual in-flight shut down & feathering of an engine.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: failure of the pilot to maintain minimum control speed (VMC), after loss of power in one engine, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control and collision with terrain. Related factors were: the pilot's improper fuel management and failure to change the fuel selector position before a fuel tank had emptied, which led to fuel starvation and loss of power in one engine; and the pilot's lack of familiarity with the aircraft, relative to single-engine minimum airspeeds. Full narrative available
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