NTSB Identification: CHI03LA090.
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Accident occurred Monday, March 24, 2003 in South Haven, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/30/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-151, registration: N43456
Injuries: 2 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 performed an off airport landing from an airport traffic pattern and collided with trees after a total loss of engine power. The pilot reported that he could not reach the runway from the base leg because of a strong headwind. The pilot diverted to the airport after being concerned that he would run out of fuel while en route to his intended destination. The flight departed five hours before the accident. The pilot reported that he should have had enough fuel based upon his calculations to reach his intended destination. He based his calculations on a leaning technique which employed a loss of rpm followed by an increase in the mixture control of about 3/4 of an inch and fuel gauge indications. Based upon Federal Aviation Administration guidance information, the airplane had a "safe flight time" of 4 hours and 30 minutes. In addition, fuel gauges are only calibrated to accurately indicate an empty tank.

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

The inadequate fuel consumption calculations by the pilot and the fuel exhaustion. The inadequate traffic pattern distance from the runway, which precluded his reaching the runway.

Full narrative available

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