NTSB Identification: DEN03LA021.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, November 27, 2002 in Vernal, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/13/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N9020J
Injuries: 1 Minor,3 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 pilot took off for his destination airport after waiting 2 hours at an intermediate stop due to weather. Approaching Vernal, Utah, the pilot said he encountered weather again. He deviated south and then back north trying to locate a path around the weather. He said he burned an hour's worth of fuel during the deviation. The pilot said he looked at his fuel and determined that he would need to land and get gas. The pilot said there was a layer of fog over the valley and over Vernal Airport. The pilot deviated first to Shane, Utah, then went to Roosevelt, Utah, and then back northeast toward Vernal. At that time he noted he had 7 gallons of fuel remaining. As the pilot was preparing to land at Vernal, the airplane ran out of gas on one tank. Approximately 4 miles southwest of the Vernal Airport, the pilot said he ran out of gas on the other tank. The pilot said he came out of the clouds 400 feet above a highway. He said there was mountainous terrain all around him. The pilot said he saw a plateau ahead. He said he pulled the airplane up and put it down on the plateau, breaking the landing gear aft and crushing the firewall and bottom fuselage upward and aft. An examination of the airplane revealed there was no fuel in either fuel tank. An examination of the engine and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

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

the pilot's improper in-flight planning/decision. Factors contributing to the accident were fuel exhaustion and the fog.

Full narrative available

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