NTSB Identification: NYC08LA172.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, April 30, 2008 in Richmond Hill, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/28/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-160, registration: N5426W
Injuries: 2 Serious,1 Minor.

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 flew cross-country from his home airport to another airport, and upon arrival, requested that the airplane's fuel tanks be "topped off." The following morning, the pilot flew to a third airport, where the fuel tanks were again topped off. After departing that airport, the pilot flew locally for about 1.5 hours, and then flew another 1.5 hours back to the second airport. Upon arrival, he requested that the airplane be "fully fueled" before his departure to his home airport, 3 days later. On the morning of his departure, the pilot first went to the fixed base operator, and paid for 4-nights' parking and 42.3 gallons of fuel. During the preflight inspection of the airplane, the pilot did not remove the fuel caps to check the quantity. After takeoff, he noted that the fuel gauges indicated half full for each tank, which he believed to be normal for that indicating system when starting with full tanks. About 2 hours later, the fuel gauges still indicated approximately half full. Some time later, the engine sputtered, then lost all power. The pilot switched to the other fuel tank, which was then indicating about one fourth full, and he was able to restart the engine. The pilot declared an emergency, and turned the airplane toward an airport; however, about 5 minutes later, the engine quit, and the pilot could not restart it. The pilot then attempted a forced landing to a road, but impacted trees. A postflight examination of the airplane revealed only trace amounts of fuel onboard. Fuel receipts confirmed that the airplane was initially topped off with 42.3 gallons of fuel at the second airport, but that during the subsequent visit, no fuel was pumped. When the pilot paid for his fuel, he thought he was paying for two refuelings, when he was actually only paying for one.

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

The loss of engine power during cruise flight due to fuel exhaustion, and the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection.

Full narrative available

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