NYC99LA031
NYC99LA031

On November 25, 1998, about 1200 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper PA-28-180, N7177W, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Reno, Ohio. The certificated private pilot and the passenger were uninjured, and visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed for the flight between Sussex Airport (FWN), Sussex, New Jersey, and Wood County Airport (PKB), Parkersburg, West Virginia. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In a statement, the pilot wrote that he originally intended to fly to the St. Louis area, "with a fuel stop at the nearest airport about 4 hours en route." Approximately 2 1/2 hours into the flight, about 20 nautical miles east, northeast of Parkersburg, the pilot noticed the "fuel gauges looked unusually low." He then decided to land at Parkersburg to refuel, and investigate the cause of the high fuel consumption. About 1/2 hour later, approximately 2 nautical miles east northeast of Parkersburg, the airplane ran out of fuel, and the pilot performed the forced landing to a field.

In another statement, the pilot noted that the airplane's groundspeed, as calculated by Global Positioning System (GPS), was 100 knots. At that groundspeed, and 1/2 hour prior to the forced landing, the airplane would have been about 50 nautical miles east northeast of Parkersburg. A review of the local sectional aeronautical chart revealed that the pilot selected an airport which was ahead, and along the intended route. However, there were numerous other airports which were closer, and could have been selected, but were not along the intended route.

According to the pilot's calculations, during the 3 hours aloft, the airplane should have burned about 27 gallons of the 48 gallons of usable fuel on board.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, examination of the airplane revealed a "very slight" fuel stain from the left wing fuel cap, which went aft about 2 feet. Fuel was added to the left wing tank, and the boost pump was turned on. With that, a "slight leak seep" was noted at the carburetor filter fitting. There was no leak in the vicinity of the fuel strainer. When the fuel primer was pumped, a pinhole leak was found in the fuel primer line, 3 inches upstream from the carburetor. There was no evidence of faulty fuel gauges at lower fuel tank levels, although the pilot had reported to the FAA Inspector that the left gauge read 3/4 full when the tank was actually full. The Inspector confirmed that both gauges indicated properly when there was no fuel in the tanks.

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