NTSB Identification: CHI06FA224.
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Accident occurred Sunday, July 30, 2006 in Chicago, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/29/2007
Aircraft: American Legend AL11C, registration: N848LC
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Uninjured.

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 was ditched in Lake Michigan following a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. The private pilot on board drowned following the ditching. The private pilot just purchased the airplane and was relocating it to another airport near his home in Ohio when the accident occurred. The private pilot did not have a tailwheel sign-off or a current biennial flight review. Arrangements were made through the aircraft manufacturer for an airline transport/ certified flight instructor (ATP/CFI) pilot who was a test and demonstration pilot for the company to fly the airplane back to Ohio with the new owner. Prior to takeoff, there was an aircraft accident on the airport involving another airplane and the airport was temporarily closed. During this delay, the ATP/CFI stepped up on the right wing step and looked over the wing trying to see the accident. He stated that when he got down off the wing the private pilot got up on the right wing step to look. The ATP/CFI stated that while the private pilot was up on the wing step they were informed that the first four airplanes to get to the engine start line would be able to depart. He stated that with the assistance of other pilots in the area, they were second in line at the start line and were able to takeoff. The ATP/CFI stated that when up on the wing step the only handhold available was the fuel cap, which both he and the private pilot held onto. The ATP/CFI stated the private pilot flew the airplane over the shoreline and out over the lake. He stated he commented to the private pilot about how far out over the water they were and after several comments the private pilot "reluctantly turned back closer to the shore line." The ATP/CFI stated that after flying for approximately two hours, he noticed the left fuel tank quantity indicator was indicating that the fuel tank was empty and the right fuel tank quantity indicator was showing about one inch of fuel. He stated the private pilot stated that the "fuel gauges must be malfunctioning as the E.I.S. [electronic information system] indicated that the rate of fuel burn was 5.8 G.P.H. with 8.3 gallons of fuel remaining." He stated the private pilot also told him the E.I.S. was indicating that there was 1 hour and 20 minutes of flying time remaining. He stated the private pilot then decided to divert to a closer airport. The ATP/CFI stated he suggested landing at the Gary-Chicago International Airport (GYY), Gary, Indiana. He stated that approximately 20 minutes later, while en route to GYY, he noticed that both fuel gauges were indicating empty. He stated that the private pilot again reported the E.I.S. was showing a fuel flow of 5.8 G.P.H. with 6.1 gallons of fuel left. The ATP/CFI stated that approximately four minutes later, the engine lost power. The private pilot landed the airplane on the water. Both pilots exited the airplane unharmed, however, the private pilot who did not know how to swim subsequently drowned. The ATP/CFI was picked up by a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat approximately 40 minutes after the accident. The right fuel cap was missing from the airplane when it was recovered from the bottom of the lake. No mechanical failures/malfunctions were noted during the on scene examination of the airplane and engine.

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

The failure of both pilots to assure that the fuel cap was securely in place prior to takeoff which resulted in fuel siphoning and untimately fuel exhaustion. An additional cause was the decision to fly over the lake outside of gliding distance to shore along with the delay in diverting to refuel the airplane.

Full narrative available

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