NTSB Identification: FTW01FA007.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, October 10, 2000 in COTULLA, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/16/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-23-160, registration: N3390P
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

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.

During the day cross-country flight in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), the pilot reported a loss of left engine power and then reported he was unable to maintain altitude. The controller provided the pilot with a vector to the nearest airport. The pilot descended the airplane, reported he was in visual meteorological conditions, and reported the airport in sight. There were no further transmissions from the pilot. The initial ground scar measurements at the accident site were consistent with the length of the right wing, the right engine cowling, and the nose of the airplane. The right wing leading edge and the nose were crushed aft, upward, and to the right. The pilot had logged a total of 24 hours in actual IMC, of which 3.9 hours (.8-hour in the make and model of the accident airplane) were during the 30 days prior to the accident. A maintenance entry stated in part: "disconnected aux fuel cells and capped and plugged lines, fastened fuel covers for aux tanks down and placarded "DO NOT FILL AUX TANKS" placarded fuel console "AUX FUEL NOT AVAILABLE." Examination of the airplane confirmed the aux tanks were unusable. The main fuel tank capacity was 72 gallons total. The integrity of the fuel system was not compromised, continuity was confirmed from the main fuel tanks to the respective engines, and no discrepancies were found that would have precluded operation of the system prior to the accident. An estimated 2 ounces of blue colored fuel was found in the left main fuel sump. Five and one-half quarts of blue colored fuel were drained from the right main fuel tank. By rotating the crankshaft manually, continuity was confirmed from the crankshaft flange to the rear accessory case gears, and thumb compression was obtained on all the cylinders on both engines. Both left propeller blades were found against the stop locks (non-feather position), and the blades exhibited no physical evidence of rotation. A test run was conducted for the left engine, and no discrepancies were found that would indicate the engine was incapable of producing power prior to the impact.

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

The pilot's failure to refuel the airplane which resulted in fuel exhaustion and subsequent loss of engine power. Also contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to feather the engine.

Full narrative available

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