NTSB Identification: SEA04LA084.
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Accident occurred Monday, May 17, 2004 in Bigfork, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/28/2004
Aircraft: Piper J4/E, registration: N37982
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.

The pilot reported that while returning to land at the departure airport, the engine began to "surge". The pilot continued towards the airport but was not able to maintain altitude or establish visual contact with the airport due to terrain. The pilot further reported that since he was unable to reach the airport, he turned approximately 180-degrees and initiated a forced landing in a field. During the landing roll the pilot, in an attempt to avoid running into trees, applied the brakes "aggressively" which resulted in a nose over. In a telephone conversation and subsequent written statement, the pilot reported, "I am convinced the engine quit running because of fuel starvation." He related that the airplane had been "topped" three days earlier and had been flown two hours previous to the day of the accident. On the day of the accident he flew for about an hour. He further revealed that he was aware that the wing tank was empty because he had observed "bubbles" in the fuel sight gauge, which extends out the bottom of the wing tank. The pilot also reported that the airplane was equipped with one 18-gallon wing tank, and a 7-gallon header tank. Post accident examination of the aircraft by maintenance personnel from Discount Aircraft Salvage, found all engine controls to be functioning properly and approximately one tablespoon of fuel was drained from the fuel gascolator. After adding approximately one gallon of fuel to the header tank, the engine was started and ran smoothly with no malfunction or failures noted.

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

A loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion while in cruise flight as a result of inadequate preflight planning / preparation. Factors contributing to the accident were the short landing field and trees.

Full narrative available

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