NTSB Identification: CHI04CA106.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, April 14, 2004 in Columbia, MO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/30/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N40RT
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane sustained substantial damage on impact with terrain during a precautionary landing. The pilot reported that he checked weather, filed a flight plan, performed a preflight, and verified that both tanks were full. The pilot stated that the first fuel tank switch was completed 12 minutes after departure and the remaining tank switches were completed on 15 to 17 minute balanced intervals. The pilot stated that he over flew his destination and turned around toward a known city. The pilot stated, "The left tank ran out of fuel, and, I reacted automatically & immediately turned on the electric fuel pump then switched from the left to the right tank - the engine fired up right away. I thought about issuing a May-Day call, but, decided not to because [Air Traffic Control] lost radar contact with me at 4000ft, and, I was at 3500. I did not want to waste fuel climbing or waste time to set up radios and communicate -started thinking about my aviate, navigate, communicate priorities. I had the radial to track back to a known airport location, Hannibal, but, I began to doubt if I had the fuel to get there. This logic hinged on the fact that I had been religious about keeping the tanks balanced. If I had emptied the left, regardless of why it emptied prematurely, the right tank should be no more than 15 minutes behind it. Figured Hannibal was at least 15 minutes out with Monroe City closer, but, neither in view. To greatly compound matters, the sun was well on its way to setting. Guessed I might have no more than 5 or 10 minutes of light left. Scanned around again for an airport - none found. Started looking for a place to make an emergency landing. ... Decided to go with my 1st choice pasture/hay field with known surface. Next, thought I heard a burp from the engine as the field approached. This made it easier to commit to the precautionary landing. ... The field was not long enough, though. I rolled into scrub brush and a barbed wire fence with metal fence posts." The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions associated with the airplane in reference to the flight.

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

The pilot inadvertently became lost and over flew his destination in cruise flight and selected an unsuitable landing area for his precautionary landing. Factors were the rough/uneven terrain, the barbed wire fence, and the fence post encountered during the precautionary landing.

Full narrative available

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