NTSB Identification: ERA13FA096
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 24, 2012 in Leesburg, FL
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31-350, registration: N78WM
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.
On December 24, 2012, about 1435 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N78WM, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power near Leesburg, Florida. The private pilot was fatally injured and the pilot-rated passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Eagles Nest Aerodrome (FD44), Crescent City, Florida, at 1405, and was destined for Leesburg International Airport (LEE), Leesburg, Florida. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to preliminary air traffic control voice communication information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot contacted the LEE air traffic control tower at 1430; advising the controller that the airplane was about 12 nautical miles north of the airport, in a “bingo fuel” state, and that he would like a straight-in approach to the runway. The controller subsequently instructed the pilot to advise him when the airplane was 1 mile from the runway on final approach. When the airplane was about 6 nautical miles from the airport, the pilot advised the controller that one of the airplane’s fuel tanks was empty and that he was attempting to make it to the airport “on one.” The controller then cleared the pilot to land on runway 13, but shortly thereafter the pilot advised the controller that the airplane was out of fuel and that they were “going in.” No further transmissions were received from the pilot.
According to a witness, he first noticed the airplane approaching his direction when he heard the engines "sputtering" before they both became quiet. He noted that the airplane was at an altitude not much higher than the trees surrounding his home, and that the landing gear appeared to be extended. As the airplane approached him, one of the engines suddenly “revved up” and the airplane climbed over trees behind him. After losing sight of the airplane, he heard the engine become quiet again, and then heard the sounds of impact.
The accident site was located about 2 nautical miles north of LEE. The initial impact point was identified as a tree with broken limbs, with various components of wreckage extending from that point on a heading of 135 degrees magnetic. A ground scar approximately 6 feet wide by 100 feet long began about 50 feet from the initial impact point, and was oriented along the wreckage path. The fuselage came to rest upright oriented roughly 350 degrees magnetic. First responders reported that no fuel or fuel odor was present at the scene and that all of the airplane’s fuel tanks appeared to be absent of fuel.
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