On February 27, 1998, at 1904 eastern standard time, a Piper PA28R-180, N4679J, was substantially damaged during a forced landing and collision with wires near Walbridge, Ohio. The certificated private pilot received serious injuries and the passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that departed Sandusky, Ohio, destined for the Toledo Suburban Airport, Lambertville, Michigan. No flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to fly to Sandusky to pick up a passenger and return to the Toledo Suburban Airport (5G9). During his preflight of the airplane he estimated the fuel level in the tanks. He stated:
"...stopped at the right fuel tank and looked inside. I observed the fuel was even with the point where the bottom of the tank meets the outboard vertical wall of the tank...I judged this to represent 13 gallons of fuel based on data I had obtained from my Universal Fuel gauge...The calibration card and Universal Fuel Gauge were in my flight kit which was at my home. I did not have it with me...I checked the left tank, and found the fuel to be level with a point about 2 inches from the outboard vertical wall, along the bottom surface of the tank. I judged this amount to be about 7-8 gallons..."
The pilot took off from 5G9 about 1805, and arrived at Sandusky about 1830. Before takeoff, he performed another preflight of the airplane and fuel tanks. He stated:
"...The fuel in the right tank was down about 30% compared to earlier. Put another way the gas was level with a point about 3-4 inches from the outboard wall of the tank. The gas in the left tank could only be seen while sloshing around when I wiggled the wing. I judged it to be down about 50% compared to earlier."
When the passenger arrived, the pilot departed for the return trip to 5G9. During the climb the pilot informed the passenger, "...to expect the engine to quit at some point as I had decided to run the fuel out of the left tank, and save the right tank for approach and landing. At about 10 minutes into the flight, while going through about 7,000 feet, the left tank ran out as expected."
The pilot further stated:
"I immediately turned on the fuel pump and switched to the right tank. The engine caught within seconds and I switched off the pump. At that time, I believed I was flying on a tank holding at least 9 gallons of fuel for a flight that only had 20 minutes remaining. But the engine ran for only a few more minutes; quitting as we were climbing through 7,700 feet."
In a statement provided to the Ohio State Police, the pilot stated:
"...I knew I had more gas in the right tank, so I ran the left tank out of gas. I then switched tanks. It restarted for a while, then quit again. I tried to land at Metcalf, but could not make it. I tried to make a landing in a dirt field...I noticed the wires. When I saw them I dove sharply to avoid them, but I hit them anyway..."
According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, the airplane struck a lower set of wires between poles, and came to rest about 1/2 mile from the Metcalf Field Airport, Toledo, Ohio. The right wing was separated from the fuselage, but the fuel tank was not damaged. There was no evidence of fuel leaking or spilling from the right tank, and the tank contained about 1/2 quart of fuel.
The airplane fuselage was resting on its right side with the left wing vertical to the ground. There was no evidence of fuel spillage or leakage from the left tank, and the tank contained 1/2 quart of fuel also.
The last refueling of the airplane occurred on November 17, 1997, with 43.5 gallons. An annual inspection of the airplane was signed off on December 5, 1997, at the same airport where it was refueled. The tach reading at the time of the annual was 1355.67. At the accident scene the airplane's engine tach read 1361.58, about 5.91 hours since the annual inspection.
According to the Owner's Handbook, the fuel capacity of the airplane was 50 gallons, of which 48 gallons were useable. The range charts in the handbook listed a fuel consumption rate of 8.1 gallons per hour at 70% power.
The engine was examined on April 8, 1998, at the Textron-Lycoming Facility, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, by the Safety Board Investigator. The examination did not reveal any preimpact failures of the engine.