NTSB Identification: DEN03LA049.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 14, 2003 in Belen, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/25/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-24-250, registration: N6960P
Injuries: 1 Serious,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.
According to the pilot, he purchased the airplane on March 11, 2003, and was aware of recent maintenance on the fuel selector valve. He examined the airplane and departed on a cross-country flight back to his home base. He stated that, approximately 2 hours into the flight, the engine "quit," and that he had experienced fuel exhaustion. He switched the fuel selector valve to the left wing-tip fuel tank, restarted the engine and landed at the nearest airport. Upon landing, he examined the fuel tanks and found that the right main and right wing-tip fuel tanks were full, the left wing-tip fuel tank was half full and the left main fuel tank was "dry." He refueled the airplane and departed. During the next 2 hours of flying, he switched the fuel selector valve from the left and right wing-tip tanks, to the main tanks and at approximately 2 hours into the flight the engine "quit" a second time. He was able to restart the engine after switching back to the left wing-tip tank, landed at the nearest airport to refuel and then departed to his destination. On March 14, the day of the accident, he departed on a cross-country flight. During the second hour of flight, he switched the fuel selector valve from the main tanks to the left wing-tip tank, then to the right wing-tip tank and then back to the main tanks in 20-min intervals. Approximately 2 hours into the flight, the engine "sputtered and then stopped." He restarted the engine, but it only ran for a few seconds. He attempted to glide to the nearby Alexander Municipal Airport, but was forced to land approximately 250 feet short of runway 21. The impact resulted in substantial damage to both wings, the firewall, and the separation of all landing gear assemblies.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: the pilot's improper preflight/in-flight decision making which resulted in the loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing factors include, the partial fuel selector valve failure, the pilot's intentional operation with known deficiencies in equipment and the lack of suitable terrain for a forced landing.
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