NTSB Identification: ATL04LA117.
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Accident occurred Friday, May 14, 2004 in New Bern, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-260, registration: N3260W
Injuries: 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 departed a grass airstrip which had no fuel available en-route to Michael J. Smithfield in Beaufort, North Carolina. The pilot felt that the fuel gauges were unreliable and used a home made dipstick to dip the fuel tanks. He reported that he had 35 gallons of fuel onboard. From previous flights the pilot estimated that 17 gallons of fuel was all that would be required to make the trip. The pilot stated that he had recently had a new engine installed with instructions to operate it with the mixture in the full rich setting during the break-in period, so the flight was conducted with the mixture set in this position. He said that unexpected headwinds were encountered at his cruising altitude of 5,500 feet. He stated that he was originally on the left main tank when the engine sputtered and quit, at this point after checking the fuel gauges, he switched to the right main tank and called air traffic control at Cherry Point, North Carolina for flight following to Craven County Airport in New Bern, North Carolina. After about three minutes of operation on the right tank, the engine began sputtering and quit, the pilot then switched the fuel selector to each of the four tanks individually but was unable to restart the engine. The New Bern tower had authorized an emergency landing on any runway and had alerted the airport fire and rescue vehicles. During his descent the pilot raised his flaps from the approach setting to zero, this resulted in a greater sink rate. Unable to make the runway, the airplane contacted the downhill side of a knoll at 100 mph, and bounced 195 feet where it contacted the ground and stopped short of runway 04. The pilot was uninjured and during a subsequent interview he readily admitted that the engine was running fine when it lost power and that he ran out of fuel. The pilot had over-flown several airports where additional fuel could have been purchased. Post- accident examination of the airframe did not reveal any flight control anomalies.

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

The pilot's inadequate pre-flight planning which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Full narrative available

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