NTSB Identification: CHI05CA087.
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Accident occurred Monday, March 28, 2005 in Jeffersonville, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/07/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-300, registration: N722RM
Injuries: 4 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 rental airplane impacted terrain during a forced landing on a wet hay field after the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power during climb from the departure airport. The pilot stated that he preflighted the airplane in moderate rain while his family boarded the airplane, and the baggage was loaded. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed with ceilings of approximately 500 feet above ground level at the time of the accident. Following the loss of engine power, the pilot reportedly switched fuel tanks and changed mixture settings from rich to lean but was unable to restart the engine. He initated a turn back to the departure airport due to his concern of wooded terrain in the area he was flying over. When he broke out of the cloud base, he had about "20 seconds" to land the airplane on a field that he selected. He stated that his vision was "greatly" obscured by rain and fog and that trees at the end of the field appeared closer that he originally anticipated. The pilot then changed his landing field to an adjacent field where he landed and impacted terrain. The pilot stated that there would have been "little likelihood" of the airplane receiving any damage if he had not switched fields. Inspection of the airplane revealed that the left main fuel tank contained unusable fuel, and the left main fuel tank "quick drain" was open. The airplane's Pilot's Operating Handbook Emergency Procedures states: "If engine failure was caused by fuel exhaustion, power will not be regained after tanks are switched until empty fuel lines are filled, which may be up to ten seconds."
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's inadequate preflight of the aircraft by his failure to detect an open fuel drain which resulted in fuel starvation and the loss of engine power. Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to follow emergency procedures, low ceiling, fog and rain. Full narrative available
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