NTSB Identification: WPR10FA385
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 05, 2010 in Ridgecrest, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/27/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-24-260C, registration: N9365P
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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 pilot reported that he departed for the destination airport with 88 gallons of usable fuel onboard the airplane. The airplane was equipped with two main and two auxiliary fuel tanks. Only one tank at a time could be selected to provide fuel to the engine. According to the manufacturer's Pilot Operating Handbook (POH), for the flight conditions, the airplane had an endurance of about 6.7 hours, and a fuel consumption rate of about 13 gallons per hour. Contrary to the POH procedures, which specified that fuel in the auxiliary tanks should be utilized early in the flight, the pilot reported that he delayed the use of the fuel in the auxiliary tanks until about 4 hours after departure. Up to this point, he had been switching between the left and right main tanks. The pilot eventually switched to the left and then the right auxiliary tanks, but due to a suspected malfunctioning fuel quantity gauge, he switched the selector back to the right main tank. While the pilot was trying to fix the fuel quantity gauge, the engine started to miss and cough and eventually lost power. The airplane entered a descent as the pilot made several unsuccessful attempts to start the engine. The pilot conducted a forced landing on desert terrain with the landing gear retracted, which resulted in substantial damage to the wings and fuselage. Postaccident examination revealed that the main fuel tanks contained minimal fuel, while the auxiliary fuel tanks contained sufficient fuel for continued flight.

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

A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, as a result of the pilot's improper fuel management during cruise flight.

Full narrative available

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