NTSB Identification: FTW03LA113.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 14, 2003 in Bonham, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/25/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N5264L
Injuries: 1 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 airplane was painted at a maintenance facility prior to being delivered to its new owner. A private pilot was contacted by the maintenance facility to ferry the airplane. The 90-hour pilot reported that she flew on the right tank for the first 30 minutes of the flight, changing the fuel selector every hour thereafter. The pilot added that to switch the fuel selector, she had to move her left leg and look at the fuel selector every time she switched tanks since she was unable to feel the detent to make sure the selector was in the proper position. About 10 minutes after leveling-off at 3,000 feet, while 25-nautical miles from her next refueling stop, the pilot reported a rough running engine, followed by a complete loss of engine power. The airplane was too low to make the field and the airplane collided with matured trees just short of the selected field. The engine was removed from the airframe and after installing a test propeller, the engine was successfully ran to 2,400 RPMs. Further examination of the fuel system revealed that the fuel selector placard (Piper P/N 63832) was the correct type for this airplane; however, the pointer (handle) was not the correct type for this model aircraft. The installed pointer(handle) was to be used on later models of the airplane (s/n 28-7105001 and up). The installed pointer (handle) was found to have the fuel valve shaft indexed differently than the correct pointer (Piper P/N 63949) for this model, and the pointer would not properly align with the placard. An unknown installer appeared to have re-drilled the holes in the placard and cocked it about 45 degrees so the pointer would align with the placard and the detents in the valve.

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

The loss of engine power due to fuel starvation as result of the unapproved fuel selector valve handle installed on the aircraft by an unknown person. A contributing factor was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.

Full narrative available

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