NTSB Identification: WPR12LA315
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 20, 2012 in Adelanto, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/05/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32S-300, registration: N5212S
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

The pilot departed from the dirt airstrip with two passengers. The takeoff roll was uneventful, and shortly after rotation, the engine emanated an unusual sound and lost power. With half the runway remaining, the pilot elected to land ahead. The airplane subsequently landed hard, departed the runway, and struck a pole.

The pilot reported that the electrical fuel pump made an unusual sound during the run-up but still produced nominal fuel pressure. The pump, as well as the airframe and engine, were subsequently examined, and no malfunctions or failures were noted that would have precluded normal operation. The electrical pump is a backup for the engine driven pump and will provide positive fuel pressure in the event of an engine driven pump failure. Therefore, a failure of the electrical pump likely would not cause a loss of engine power.

Further examination of the airframe revealed a large fuel streak trailing along the belly of the airplane, emanating from the fuel drain sump port. The pilot stated that the stain was not present when the airplane was washed a few flights prior to the accident.

A passenger was seated above the drain activation lever, which is located in the aft area of the footwell at the base of the right middle seat. The protective cover had been damaged previously and had not been repaired prior to the accident flight. As such, the lever was exposed and could easily have been inadvertently activated by the passenger’s foot. Such activation could drain fuel from the sump pump and subsequently starve the engine of fuel and result in a loss of engine power.

The inclusion of the protective cover was required per a Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Directive in order to prevent inadvertent activation in flight.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain directional control during the aborted takeoff, which was aborted due to fuel starvation as a result of an inadvertent in-flight activation of the fuel drain activation lever by the passenger. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to have the fuel drain protective cover repaired prior to flight.

Full narrative available

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