NTSB Identification: WPR11LA067
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 01, 2010 in Wittmann, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/15/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-181, registration: N4122F
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The student pilot was making a solo cross-country flight involving four flight legs. Before beginning the final return leg, he completed multiple full stop landings and touch-and-go landings that he had not included in his preflight planning. During the final leg, the engine began to lose power. The student pilot switched the fuel selector valve to the left tank, but then switched it back to the right tank after a short period of time. The engine subsequently lost all power, and the student pilot made a forced landing in rough terrain. Postaccident examination revealed that the right fuel tank was not breached and was empty of fuel. The left fuel tank was breached, and the soil beneath the tank was wet with fuel. After the wreckage was recovered, a fuel delivery system was rigged, and the engine was started and continued to run as the fuel selector was positioned to both the right and left fuel tank positions. According to the pilot operating handbook for the airplane, if the pilot allows a tank to run dry and the engine loses power, it may take up to 10 seconds for fuel to reach the engine after the other tank is selected. It is likely that, after running the right tank dry, the pilot did not leave the selector in the left tank position for long enough to allow fuel to reach the engine.

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

The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

Full narrative available

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