On August 9, 1997, at 2258 eastern daylight time, a Diamond DA 20-A1, N278PL, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees during a forced landing near Slatington, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot sustained serious injuries and the passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at 1815. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 and a visual flight rules flight plan was not filed.

The pilot was on a trip from Florida to Pennsylvania. The flight had been airborne for over 4 hours 43 minutes. At his destination, he descended from 3,500 feet MSL to 1,500 feet, and circled the airport for about 15 minutes as he was unable to activate the runway lights. He decided to climb to 2,500 feet and divert to another airport, but the engine lost power. A forced landing was performed to a lighted, golf course. During the landing, the airplane struck a telephone pole, and descended to the ground.

According to the pilot, he stopped in South Carolina where he topped off the fuel tanks with 19.4 gallons of fuel. He said his trip was uneventful, and when he arrived at his destination, neither the airport lights nor the rotating beacon was visible. He circled the airport five times, and as he added power to climb, the engine lost power.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, examination of the wreckage revealed that the total capacity of the fuel tanks was 20.3 gallons, the usable fuel was 19.5 gallons, and the fuel consumption was 3.8 gallons per hour. The examination also revealed 4 ounces of fuel in the fuel tanks, and the carburetor was empty.

The pilot reported that there was no mechanical malfunction with the airplane, and the accident could have been prevented if the airport lights functioned properly. He also said that improper emergency procedures in regard to fuel, reserve and diversion were contributing factors.

A functional test of the airport lights was performed after the accident, and they operated satisfactory. According to the FAA this was the pilot's first flight to this airport.

A review of 14 CFR Part 91.151 revealed:

"(a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless...there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed - ...(2) At night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes..."

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