NTSB Identification: WPR09LA412
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 23, 2009 in Santa Barbara, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/19/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-24-260, registration: N8775P
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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 stated that he departed with an estimated 32 gallons total (28 usable) of fuel on board for the 148-nautical-mile flight. He thought that the flight would take about 1.1 hours, which would leave a 1-hour fuel reserve. The left main tank was selected for takeoff, climb, and initial cruise. About 57 miles from his destination, the pilot switched from the left main fuel tank to the right main fuel tank, and he noted that the fuel flow gauge indicated a fuel burn of 12.5 gallons per hour. He said that when he was on approach and about 5 miles from his destination, the engine began to run rough and lose power. He turned the fuel boost pump on and switched back to the left main tank; however, he was unable to restore full engine power. He declared an emergency and prepared to make an off-airport forced landing. Because of terrain and other considerations, he landed on the southbound lanes of a freeway. Immediately after touchdown, an automobile struck the left wing, and two other automobiles struck the airplane before it came to a rest on the freeway. During the recovery, there was no evidence of fuel in the airplane, including the 4 gallons of unusable fuel that should have been in the tank. The pilot opined that the fuel vented from the airplane due to a mechanical problem. During a postaccident engine examination, there was no visible fuel found in any of the engine fuel system components, and there was no fuel staining observed at any of the engine compartment fuel system line fittings or components. At the conclusion of the examination, no anomalies were found that would have precluded normal operation. Examination of the airframe revealed that the left wing main fuel tank filler cap was loose in the filler hole when latched; it could easily be rotated. There were no stains on the top or bottoms of the wings in the fuel vent areas or around any of the main or auxiliary filler caps. There were dark blue stains on the inside of the fuel drain access door, but not on the outside.

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

A loss of power during approach due to fuel exhaustion for undetermined reasons

Full narrative available

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