NTSB Identification: LAX06FA258.
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Accident occurred Friday, August 11, 2006 in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/30/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-300, registration: N4509T
Injuries: 7 Serious.
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 pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, boarded 6 passengers, and departed on the inter-island passenger transportation flight to a neighboring island, 11 miles away. The pilot departed from an intersection 3,100 feet beyond the runway's beginning, which left 5,600 feet of available runway ahead. Seconds after liftoff the pilot commenced a right turn away from the runway and toward the neighboring island. During the initial climb between 200 and 350 above the ground, the engine experienced fuel starvation. Unable to return to the runway, the pilot made a forced landing in jungle-like, high terrain, about 2,500 feet beyond the runway's departure end. The airplane was substantially damaged during the impact sequence and thereafter was destroyed by a post impact fire. An examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. The pilot did not report experiencing any flight control problems. During the subsequent wreckage examination, the fuel tank selector was found set to the left tip tank position. Both the company's Director of Operations and the accident pilot reported that the tip tanks were kept empty or nearly empty. The Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) indicates to "Fill tip tanks first; use main tanks first" must be observed in the operation of this airplane.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: A loss of engine power during the initial climb due to fuel starvation resulting from the pilot's improper fuel selector valve position selection and his failure to select a tank containing an adequate fuel supply. Contributing to the accident was the high vegetation and dark night lighting conditions.
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