NTSB Identification: CHI05FA180.
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Accident occurred Monday, April 25, 2005 in Lake Michigan, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N5360F
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The airplane experienced a loss of engine power while flying over Lake Michigan. The pilot survived the ditching and is presumed to be fatal. The pilot was attempting to fly from Niagara Falls, New York, to Madison, Wisconsin, without a fuel stop. The total distance between the two airports was 454.8 nautical miles (nm) and crosses over Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The accident flight was about 4 hours and 7 minutes in duration and the airplane traveled about 390 nm. The pilot departed with full fuel tanks or 48 gallons of useable fuel. The fuel endurance for the accident airplane was about 4.5 hours at the 75% best power setting. The listed fuel flow value assumed a properly leaned engine. The fuel flow values for engine power settings greater than 75% were not listed in the airplane performance documentation. The pilot reportedly told a line technician at the departure airport that the flight was "planned for three hours and he had four hours of fuel on board." The accident airplane flew over Muskegon County Airport, Muskegon, Michigan, just before crossing the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. At this point the airplane had been airborne for about 3 hours and 24 minutes. The pilot decided that he would need to divert for fuel a few minutes before completely running out of available fuel. The airplane exhausted all available fuel after being airborne for about 4 hours and 2 minutes. The prevailing winds aloft were out of the west and averaged 30 knots at the accident airplane's cruising altitudes. The airplane was salvaged and no mechanical anomalies were found.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's inaccurate preflight planning and his delayed en route decision to make a fuel stop, which resulted in the loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and subsequent ditching.
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