NTSB Identification: LAX98LA183.
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Accident occurred Friday, June 05, 1998 in MARIPOSA, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/03/1999
Aircraft: Cessna 172H, registration: N2573L
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 day before the pilot's flight he checked his airplane and determined that its right fuel tank was full of fuel, and the left tank was 'down 2 to 3 gallons.' The following morning a preflight inspection was performed, no fuel was added, and the pilot took off from Mariposa, California. After flying about 1:20 hours, the pilot landed at Bakersfield and ate lunch. Thereafter, he took off for a return flight to Mariposa. En route, the pilot cruised at 6,500 feet msl and overflew Fresno, a community with several airports. The pilot observed the airplane's fuel gauges, switched tanks, and continued heading toward Mariposa. About 35 miles past Fresno, all engine power was lost. A ground-based witness heard the pilot transmit a distress call indicating that he was out of fuel. The pilot attempted to make a forced landing on a highway, but on approach collided with trees. No evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure was found during an examination of the airplane. Fuel system continuity was established, with no ruptures evident to any line or tank. The FAA reported that the amount of fuel observed remaining in the fuel tanks was less than 1 gallon and was in the unusable range. A few drops of fuel were observed in the gascolator. The pilot stated that the accident could have been prevented had he refueled (before departure) at Bakersfield.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate preflight planning, and improper in-flight decision not to make a precautionary landing for additional fuel. Full narrative available
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