NTSB Identification: SEA06LA044.
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Accident occurred Friday, January 13, 2006 in Brookings, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/03/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N35681
Injuries: 2 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 he had obtained a weather briefing prior to departure and noted headwinds for the route of flight. The pilot calculated fuel endurance via the pilot operating handbook for cruise flight and utilizing a 65% power setting. The intended route of flight was estimated to take four hours and 30 minutes. The pilot reported that the manual indicated that for this power setting, the aircraft was capable of five hours and 15 minutes with a 45 minute reserve. While en route, the headwind was higher than the pilot expected. The pilot opted to divert to the southwest in an attempt to increase the airspeed. An altitude increase by several thousand feet was necessary for terrain clearance. The airspeed did not increase and the pilot opted to divert to another airport for landing as the flight now approached four hours with an estimated 45 minutes to an hour to go. While en route to the alternate airport, the engine rpm started to decrease at about four hours and 25 minutes into the flight. The pilot reported the emergency to air traffic control and set-up for an off-airport landing. When the pilot broke out of the cloud layer, he noted that he would not make the airport and performed a landing to a creek. During the descent, the aircraft collided with trees before coming to rest in the creek bed. During the wreckage recovery, the wing fuel tanks were intact. Approximately three gallons for fuel were drained from the fuel system. The engine was later prepared for an engine run. The engine was started and ran with no anomalies noted.

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

The pilot's inadequate in flight decision by failing to refuel while en route, resulting in fuel exhaustion and the loss of engine power. Trees and no suitable terrain for the landing were factors.

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