NTSB Identification: WPR13LA094
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 18, 2013 in Rock Springs, WY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/02/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-235, registration: N49DS
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

After an uneventful cross-country flight, the pilot initiated the landing descent by reducing engine power. When the airplane approached the base leg of the traffic pattern, the pilot performed the landing checklist, which included switching the fuel selector valve to the left tip tank. When the pilot turned the airplane from the base to final leg of the traffic pattern, he realized that the airplane was too low, and he applied full engine power. However, the engine did not respond, and a few seconds later all engine power was lost. With limited altitude to complete a thorough emergency check, the pilot performed a forced landing to rough terrain. During the landing sequence, the airplane struck a fence and berm, sustaining substantial damage to both wings.

After the accident, the pilot expressed concern that he may have inadvertently starved the engine of fuel during the approach by turning the fuel selector valve beyond its left tip tank travel limit toward its OFF position. The airplane's fuel selector lever was fitted with an interlock mechanism to prevent a pilot from inadvertently shutting off the fuel in this manner. However, examination revealed that the mechanism had shifted and the fuel selector lever could be moved to a position between the left tip tank and the OFF detent without engaging the interlock, which could result in an interruption of fuel flow to the engine.

Data extracted from the engine monitor, as well as the minimal quantities of fuel recovered from the fuel system, were consistent with a fuel starvation event. A postaccident examination of the engine and successful engine run revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The pilot's inadvertent movement of the fuel selector valve beyond its tank detent, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the fuel selector interlock mechanism.

Full narrative available

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