NTSB Identification: LAX03LA032.
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Accident occurred Saturday, November 16, 2002 in Napa, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/28/2004
Aircraft: Bellanca 14-19, registration: N501A
Injuries: 1 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.

The engine lost power during a missed instrument approach, and the pilot had to ditch the airplane. The airplane came to rest inverted and sank. The flight originally departed a Southern California airport at 0715 on a flight to Napa. The pilot stated that he departed with full fuel tanks consisting of 40 gallons in the main wing tanks (a 20-gallon tank in each wing) and 14 gallons in the auxiliary tank. The pilot did not detect any problems with the airplane during the flight. Upon arriving in the vicinity of Napa he learned that the weather was below IFR minimums. He diverted to Angwin to wait for the weather to improve and landed about 0915. After the Napa weather improved, the pilot departed Angwin at 1030. The pilot said he did not refuel at Angwin and he determined that he had about 30 total gallons of fuel onboard. The pilot received an IFR clearance upon approaching APC. During the localizer approach into runway 36L, he was advised that he was too high and to execute a missed approach. As the flight began the missed approach, the controller issued a holding clearance and the pilot stated "...fuel's getting low..." as a result, the controller issued vectors to intercept the localizer into APC. During climb out, between 2,500 to 3,000 feet, the engine began to lose power. The pilot requested immediate vectors to APC. During this time, the pilot performed emergency operations: switching fuel tanks, engaging carburetor heat, checking mixture control, and engaging the fuel boost pump. This momentarily restored power, and the pilot advised the approach controller; however, within a few moments the engine again lost partial power. The engine completely lost engine power shortly thereafter. The pilot broke out of the cloud layer and was approximately 200 feet above ground level (agl) and found only water below him. The pilot advised the controller that he would be landing in the water and then executed a "slow, stalled landing." The aircraft came to rest inverted. The pilot freed himself from the airplane, and a passing fishing boat rescued him. A FAA inspector examined the airplane and found no evidence of damage or a malfunction that would have caused the engine to stop running. The FAA inspector was unable to determine if there had been fuel on board the airplane at the time of the accident due to water in the airplane's fuel system. Water was also in all of the airplane's systems. According to information provided by Textron Lycoming, the O-435-A engine's typical fuel consumption is 12 to 14 gallons per hour at 60 percent power, and 16 to 18 gallons per hour at 70 percent power. A carburetor icing chart indicated serious icing conditions were favorable during the time of the accident.


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

the pilot's inadequate management of the fuel system, which led to fuel starvation and a water ditching.

Full narrative available

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