NTSB Identification: ERA11CA423
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 26, 2011 in Quinton, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/03/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-161, registration: N81917
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Originally the pilot was going to depart earlier on the day of the accident and had planned to stop enroute to his destination for more fuel. After receiving a weather briefing, he decided to delay his departure until later that evening due to the possibility of thunderstorms being present in the vicinity of his destination airport at his planned time of arrival. Prior to departure that evening, he had the fuel tanks filled to capacity. During the flight, and despite his previous flight planning, he did not stop for more fuel. When he was approximately 64 miles from his destination, the pilot noticed that his fuel gauges were indicating that he had less fuel than he anticipated. Upon arrival at his destination, he flew an instrument approach and advised the air traffic controller that he was low on fuel. Due to the visibility, he was unable to see the runway environment and executed a missed approach. He was then instructed by the air traffic controller to climb to 2,000 feet mean sea level (msl). During the climb, the engine lost power and the airplane began to descend, but the pilot was able to restart the engine. He then began climbing back up to 2,000 feet msl; however, the engine lost power again. The airplane once again began to descend, but this time the pilot was unable to restart the engine. The airplane then struck trees and came to rest after falling approximately 20 feet to the ground. Total duration of the flight was approximately 4 hours and 43 minutes.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the firewall and left wing were substantially damaged and both fuel tanks were absent of fuel. There was no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction of the airplane or engine. Correlation of radar and weather data revealed that the pilot would have encountered a headwind for the majority of the flight. When asked by a state trooper how the accident occurred, the pilot advised him that he had run out of fuel.

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

The pilot's inadequate preflight planning and fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Full narrative available

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