On September 27, 1994, at 1437 hours Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-24-260, N8707P, was destroyed during an emergency landing at Fullerton, California. Both pilots received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country return flight. The flight originated at Long Beach, California, on the morning of the accident. An IFR flight plan had been filed to Placerville, California. The flight was returning to Fullerton from Placerville without a flight plan.

At 1428 hours, the pilot contacted the Fullerton Tower about 12 miles northwest of Fullerton, for landing. At 1434 hours, after a left turn, the pilot reports on a right downwind for runway 24. The pilot was cleared to land on runway 24. As the airplane was turning base-leg at 1436 hours, the pilot declared an emergency and descended into an industrial park area about 1 mile northeast of the runway. The pilot stated, "On approach to Fullerton at approximately 7/800 feet, engine lost power. I ensured fuel pump was on and switched tanks with no response from engine."

The pilot rated passenger, who flew the leg to Placerville (PVF), reported that it had taken 2:10 hours en route. They had filed for 2.5 hours, with 5.0 hours of fuel on-board for the flight from Long Beach (LGB) to PVF. He stated that their departure time was about 11:45 to LGB with a stop at Fullerton.

The pilot stated that they had departed PVF about 12:30 to 13:00 for the flight back to Fullerton. He estimated that there was 40 to 45 gallons of fuel remaining.

According to their flight planned route to PVF, the distance was measured to be about 340 nautical miles. The distance back to Fullerton was about 10 miles less.

According to the pilot operator handbook, the airplane has four fuel tanks holding a total of 90 gallons of which 4 gallons is non-useable. The handbook states that at 75 percent power the fuel burn per hour is 14.1 gallons. At 65 percent power, it is 12.7 gallons. The flight planned airspeed was 155 knots.


The pilot reported a total flight time of 201 hours. He reported 21 hours in the make and model of the accident airplane, 13 hours of that as pilot-in-command. A review of the pilot log revealed that most of the flight time was dual instrument type of instruction. There were no prior extended cross-country flights noted in the pilot logbook. He had borrowed the airplane from the registered owner.


A review of the airplane records revealed that the last documented annual inspection was on July 18, 1994, at a tachometer reading of zero hours. The tachometer was changed at the annual inspection. The total airframe time at the annual was 4,697.84 hours. The tachometer reading at the time of the accident was 39.7 hours.

The fueling technique was discussed with a Piper Aircraft Co. representative. A placard common to most PA-24 aircraft (Service Bulletin No. 177) was not found on this airplane, and is not required as per the type certificate data sheets. The placard referenced on the main fuel tank cover states, "To obtain maximum capacity, aircraft must be approximately level with landing gears equally extended."

The other technique was the switching between the four fuel tanks: using the gauge, or; by the use of time. Either method could affect the amount of fuel obtained from that tank. The handbook makes no recommendation.

A required placard on the instrument panel is a warning--"uncoordinated maneuvers including long side slips and fast taxi turns just prior to takeoff, may cause loss of power, especially if fuel tank is less than half full."

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the fuel selector was on the right main fuel tank. There was 2.5 gallons of fuel drained from the left auxiliary fuel tank after the airplane had been recovered. There was 4 to 5 ounces of fuel drained from the fuel gascolator. The fuel system integrity was lost during the accident sequence and some fuel was lost at the accident site.

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