On January 2, 1999, about 1601Eastern Standard Time, a Piper PA-24-250, N7295P, collided with an unknown object during a forced landing near Colbert, Georgia. The airplane was operated by the owner under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site and an IFR flight plan was filed for the personal flight. There were no injuries to the commercial pilot and the airplane was substantially damaged. The flight originated at Allaire Airport in Belmar, NJ, at 1028 the same day destined for the Gwinnett County Airport, Lawrenceville, Georgia.

According to the pilot, the visual preflight inspection of the aircraft fuel tanks revealed that both tanks were filled to the bottom of the filler neck which the pilot believed was appropriately full (see attached flight manual). After starting the engine, fuel began leaking from the fuel sump drain hose. The pilot operated the spring loaded valve handle inside the airplane which apparently stopped the leak. No fuel was witnessed leaking from the drain hose thereafter. The pilot had estimated the flight would take close to five hours with anticipated head winds. Shortly after departing, according to the pilot, the engine began running rough upon which he began a deviation to another airport. During this time, the engine began running smoothly whereupon the pilot continued to his initial destination. According to the pilot, after an uneventful five hours of flight, during descent, the engine began running rough. The pilot stated, he decided the tanks had been exhausted and immediately asked Air Traffic Control for help to the nearest airport located in Athens, Georgia. After descending through the clouds at 600 feet, the pilot lowered the landing gear and applied full flaps. The airplane was landed on a wet and slightly downhill road. The pilot stated that the right wing hit something before the airplane settled over a drainage ditch along the side of the road (see attached Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report).

The following airplane endurance approximations are based on data obtained in the Piper Airplane PA-24-250 Aircraft Information Manual: The airplane cruising endurance based on 75% power and 90 gallons of fuel on board is 5.4 hours. Note, this cruising range figure includes 45 minutes fuel reserve plus allowance for fuel used during taxi, takeoff, climb, and cruise at the stated power. The usable fuel capacity on this airplane when the fuel tanks are filled to the top of the filler necks is 90 gallons, however when the tanks are filled to the bottom of the filler necks, the approximated quantity of usable fuel is 80 gallons. The actual flight time of this aircraft was 5.55 hours.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration inspector who examined the airplane, four feet of the main right wing was torn off, the main landing gear was broken off, the left horizontal stabilizer was bent, and one propeller blade was bent. The inspector also noted that only residual fuel was found in the selector valve and no leaks were found in the fuel system.

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