On November 30, 1996, about 1740 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, N4839F made a forced landing in mountainous terrain near Long Pond, Pennsylvania. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers received serious injuries while one passenger received minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an IFR flight plan was filed. The departure point was Montague, Massachusetts and the flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The trip originated at Alexandria Airport, Pittstown, New Jersey, on November 29, when the pilot and passengers flew to Turners Falls Airport, Montague. The pilot reported that the fuel tanks were full (48 gallon useable) at the time of departure. No servicing was accomplished while the airplane on the ground at Turners Falls. The return flight occurred the following day. On the preflight at Montague, the fuel level was observed to be on the low side of the tabs in the tanks (fuel at the tabs is 17 gallons per side). At 1032, the pilot contacted the Burlington AFSS, and received a weather briefing during which he was given the possibility of freezing rain and light to moderate rime icing in clouds.

At 1232, the pilot contacted the Burlington AFSS and filed an IFR flight plan and was again told of freezing rain aloft, and light to moderate clear ice. He was also told that freezing rain was present at Trenton, New Jersey, which was located 21 NM south-southeast of his planned destination. He filed the flight plan listing his time en route as 1 hour, 45 minutes, and 3 hours, 30 minutes of fuel onboard.

At 1514, the pilot called and receive his clearance, and was airborne at 1529. The flight was climbed to 6000 feet. At 1647, the pilot reported he was in light rime icing and requested 8000 feet which was approved.

At 1736:43, the pilot requested to proceed direct to Allentown, Pennsylvania, (ABE), and then added, "yeah we're gonna stop get some ah petrol", which was approved. At 1737:49, the pilot transmitted, "...we'd like ah lower also ah we're getting down we're not minimum fuel but we're getting lower we'd like a direct as possible", which was also approved.

At 1740:35, the pilot transmitted, "okay we're out of fuel for three nine fox looks like mayday." The flight was given radar vectors to the Mount Pocono Airport which was north of the airplane's position.

At 1741:49, the controller advised the pilot that the Mount Pocono Airport was at his 12 o'clock position and about 7 miles. At 1741:56, the pilot replied, "three nine fox can't reach it." That was the last transmission received from the airplane.

The flight landed in a wooded area, about 6.5 NM southwest of the Mount Pocono Airport. The occupants remained with the airplane overnight and were located the following morning by rescue personnel who were receiving a signal from the airplanes emergency locator beacon.

In a written statement after the accident, the pilot stated, "engine died, switched fuel tank. Engine again died A/C showed between 7-8 1/2 gal on gage." In a telephone interview, the pilot reported that the left fuel gage read 3 1/2 gallons and the right fuel gage read 4 gallons at fuel exhaustion. The fuel quantity gages are calibrated in 4ths..

When asked after the accident why he did not refuel prior to departure, the pilot replied that he thought he had sufficient fuel for the trip.

The airplane was examined by the FAA who reported that one fuel tank was ruptured, and the other fuel tank was empty. In addition, there was no evidence of a fuel spill on the ground.

According to hobbs meter records, at the time of the power loss, the airplane had been operated for 4.2 hours since its last refueling .

According to the pilot's operating handbook, fuel burn at cruise could vary between 6.3 gallons per hour, at 55 percent power, leaned to best economy, to 10.5 gallons per hours, at 75 percent power, leaned to best power, exclusive of any fuel used for runup, takeoff, and climb to altitude. When filled to the tab, the fuel tanks hold 17 gallon each side.

According to the Airman's Information Manual, Chapter 7 - Safety of Flight, Section 1 - Meteorology, 7-1-19, "...The effects of ice on aircraft are cumulative - thrust is reduced, drag increases, lift lessens, and weight increases. The results are an increase in stall speed and deterioration of aircraft performance. In extreme cases,. 2 to 3 inches of ice an form on the leading edge of the airfoil in less than 5 minutes. It takes but 1/2 inch of ice to reduce the lifting power of some aircraft by 50 percent and increases the frictional drag by an equal percentage...."

According to the operator, the engine had 1885 hours since new.

Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsis
Return to Query Page