NTSB Identification: LAX00LA021.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, October 20, 1999 in DEER VALLEY, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/06/2001
Aircraft: Cessna 172N, registration: N738FY
Injuries: 2 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.

After flying 4.4 Hobbs hours since the last fueling, the engine lost power and the airplane collided with a tree in the ensuing forced landing. Fueling records show the airplane was fueled the day before the accident, and then another renter pilot flew the airplane for 1.3 hours without refueling. The pilot did a preflight of the airplane and checked the left wing tank for fuel by sticking his finger in the filler opening. He did not check the right fuel tank. He noted that the left fuel gauge read full and the right fuel gauge read 3/4 of a tank when he departed. The pilot flew north to Flagstaff and then returned to the local Phoenix area and practiced a touch-and-go at a nearby airport while he waited for the sun to set. He noticed that the fuel gauge needles were not moving, which in his mind may have been an indicator of a low fuel state; however, he said he felt the gauges were inaccurate instead. He elected to continue his flight back to the originating airport, bypassing two airports along the way. The pilot was northeast of the second possible alternate airport when the engine sputtered the first time. He elected to continue his flight towards the destination airport, 12 miles further on, rather than perform a precautionary landing. The engine then lost all power and the pilot executed a forced landing in a clear area. During the landing roll, the airplane collided with a small tree. The airplane's Hobbs meter readings show the pilot flew the airplane for 3.1 hours on the accident flight, for a total of 4.4 hours since the last refueling.

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

Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate preflight verification of the fuel quantity, and, once he became aware of the critical fuel state, his decision to over-fly two alternate airports in order to continue to his destination.

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