NTSB Identification: ERA09LA412
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 19, 2009 in Columbus, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/06/2011
Aircraft: James O'Bert Vari-Eze, registration: N39DX
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 was practicing takeoffs and landings during the accident flight. He had departed from the runway, entered a left hand traffic pattern, and was cleared by air traffic control "for the option" which would allow the pilot to either land or execute a low approach. After descending from traffic pattern altitude, the airplane landed and took off again. The airplane was then observed flying in a level attitude, over the runway at approximately 30 feet above ground level, and witnesses heard the engine pop, sputter, and then hesitate. The pilot reported to air traffic control that he was experiencing problems, and during the pilot's transmission, a sound similar to the engine losing power was audible. The airplane then veered off the right side of the runway and struck the side of a hangar with its right wing, separating it from the airplane. The airplane began a roll to the right, skipped off the top of a shed, and continued to roll until inverted. It then impacted an unoccupied tractor and broke apart. A postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that all three fuel tanks were breached. A witness observed fuel on the ground after the accident, but it evaporated within minutes. The interior and exterior of the fuselage fuel tank, located just forward of the engine, exhibited evidence of fuel staining. The main fuel tanks however, did not reveal any evidence of fuel staining and both the fuel strainer and carburetor float bowl were devoid of fuel. The fuel in the fuselage tank was usable for all attitudes. The fuel in the main tanks however was only usable for level flight. The airplane owner's manual advised that during long descents with 1 to 2 gallons of fuel in the main fuel tanks starvation could occur. Therefore, the fuselage tank should be selected for all descents and landings. Examination of the fuel valve revealed that it was selected to the main tanks.

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

The pilots improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

Full narrative available

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