NTSB Identification: LAX05LA318.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 25, 2005 in Pioche, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/29/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140, registration: N5031T
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.

During cruise flight on a dark night, the airplane collided with a mountain while diverting to an alternate airport due to a low fuel state. According to the pilot, he fueled the airplane with 48 gallons of fuel and departed Cedar City, Utah, with full tanks. He arrived at Elko 2 hours later, did a touch-and-go landing and takeoff, and then departed for the return trip to Cedar City. His route of flight took him over the Ely, Nevada, airport, where he noted the fuel gauges were running low. He made three unsuccessful attempts to activate the runway lights so that he could land and refuel the airplane. When he was unable to activate the runway lights, he decided to continue the flight to his destination. The pilot stated that when he was about 90 nautical miles beyond Ely he realized that his flight was taking longer than expected and one fuel gauge was showing less than 5 gallons and the other one was showing 5 gallons. He contacted Salt Lake ARTCC and communicated his low fuel situation to the controller, who then vectored the pilot south towards an airport at Panaca, Nevada. The pilot reported to the controller that one of the fuel tanks had run dry. The controller then told him that a highway was directly underneath the pilot's location; however, the pilot could not identify the road due to the dark night conditions. The controller then asked the pilot if he was able to climb for terrain clearance, to which the pilot replied negatively. At that point, the controller instructed the pilot to turn to a heading of 180 degrees for terrain avoidance and the pilot was complying with the turn instructions when he simultaneously saw and crashed into the mountain. According to the airplane manufacturer, the airplane's total fuel capacity is 50 gallons, of which 2 gallons (1 gallon each side) is unusable for flight. According to the manufacturer, the airplane's typical fuel burn is about 10 gallons of fuel an hour. The airplane had been airborne about 5 hours when the accident happened.

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

controlled flight into mountainous terrain due to the pilot's inadequate preflight planning and preparation and his inadequate in-flight decisions, which created a low fuel state emergency situation that led directly to the CFIT during flight assist efforts by controllers.

Full narrative available

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