NTSB Identification: ERA10FA202
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 03, 2010 in West Milford, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/17/2011
Aircraft: CESSNA 172E, registration: N5528T
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 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 airplane had remained outside and unused for several years before it was purchased by two co-owners, through an individual acting as an aircraft broker, about 4 weeks prior the accident. One co-owner held a private pilot certificate, and the other held a student pilot certificate; neither held an aircraft mechanic's certificate. About 2 weeks after the purchase, the co-owners and a mechanic drove to the airport to examine the airplane, with the reported intent to fly it about 75 miles back to the home airport of the pilot-rated co-owner. Some maintenance activity and a brief test flight were conducted, but mechanical and weather difficulties prevented the relocation of the airplane that day. The following week the three returned to the airplane, and the pilot and mechanic flew it to the pilot's home airport. The next week, the pilot flew the airplane to the student pilot's home airport, and the two then departed, with the student pilot in the left seat. It could not be determined what roles or actions were conducted by either of the individuals during the flight. That flight ended several minutes later, when the airplane impacted a wooded area in a residential neighborhood.

First responders noticed a slight odor of fuel; one fuel tank was breached and contained no fuel, and the other, intact tank contained only a trace amount of fuel. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the fuel strainer contained cloudy fuel contaminated by water and other unidentified contaminants and that the carburetor accelerator pump gasket was deformed. The general overall appearance of the airplane was consistent with it not being well-maintained, but no evidence of any preimpact airframe discrepancies that would have precluded normal flight was observed. The only fuel purchase that could positively be associated with the airplane indicated that 17 gallons were added on the day of the test flight, 2 weeks before the accident. Calculations that used the manufacturer's fuel consumption rates indicated that the total fuel consumption for the period between that last verified fueling and the accident flight ranged from a low of 13 gallons to a high of 32 gallons. The manufacturer specified a total usable fuel quantity of 39 gallons, but the total fuel on board after the last verified fueling could not be determined.

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

The complete loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

Full narrative available

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