NTSB Identification: ATL07LA044.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, February 20, 2007 in Phenix City, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/30/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-31-350, registration: N41077
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 airplane collided with terrain while attempting a forced landing to a road, following a loss of power to both engines during the initial climb after takeoff. The airplane had come to rest on an embankment with the left main landing gear extended and intact, resting on the right wing tip. Both engines had separated from the wings with the right engine lying in front of the right wing and the left engine lying under the left wing. During recovery operations, the airplane was placed on a trailer in a level attitude, 7 gallons of fuel was drained from each inboard fuel tank, and no fuel was drained from the outboard fuel tanks. A total of 14 gallons of fuel was drained from the airplane. Both engines were examined, and at the conclusion of their examinations, no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction was found. Review of fueling records revealed that at the beginning of the accident flight, the airplane had approximatley 11 gallons of fuel in each inboard fuel tank, for a total of 22 gallons. The unusable fuel was 3 gallons for each inboard fuel tank. The pilot had intended to fly to an airport located approximately 30 miles south, and each engine consumed approximately 24 gallons-per-hour. The airplane flight manual was reviewed for low fuel procedures/limitations, and the following was found. The shape of the wing fuel tanks is such that in certain maneuvers the fuel may move away from the tank outlet. If the outlet is uncovered, the fuel flow will be interrupted and a temporary loss of power may result. Normal and running turning takeoffs are not to be made when the inboard tanks are less the one-quarter full as fuel flow interruption may occur. Prior to the accident, low fuel procedures were listed in the advisory section near the end of the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH). After the accident, the manufacturer moved the procedures to the Normal Procedures section of the POH.

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

Loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, the pilot's inadequate preflight planning, and his misunderstanding of how the fuel system operates. Contributing to the accident was the manufacturers insufficiently defined procedures for low fuel operations, which resulted in a forced landing and in-flight collision with terrain.

Full narrative available

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