On April 23, 2000, about 2000 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Piper PA-28-181 Archer, N55PJ, registered to and operated by Nice Air as a 14CFR91 personal/pleasure flight, was substantially damaged following a forced landing near Ashland, Oregon. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a VFR flight plan was filed. The private pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries, and the second passenger sustained minor injuries. The flight originated from Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California, with a planned final destination of Medford, Oregon, by way of Los Banos Municipal Airport, Los Banos, California.

The pilot stated that the aircraft's two fuel tanks were topped off prior to departing Reid-Hillview Airport. The pilot estimated that the flight time from Reed-Hillview to Los Banos was 40 minutes. At 1645 PDT, two hours after landing at Los Banos, the pilot departed for Medford, Oregon.

According to personnel from Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the pilot of the accident aircraft reported that the aircraft was low on fuel and that the engine was running rough. At 1955 PDT, approximately 2 minutes later, radar contact with the aircraft was lost. Seattle Center issued an ALNOT (alert notice) and Jackson County search and rescue personnel initiated a search for the aircraft. Approximately 9 hours after the ALNOT was issued, rescue personnel located the aircraft in a wooded area east of Ashland, Oregon.

The pilot reported that during a descending turn, 20 miles east of Pinehurst, Oregon, (approximately 7 miles southeast of Medford) "...the engine began missing. I checked for fuel in [the] tank and switched to the right tank that indicated approximately 1/8 tank remaining." The engine began functioning normally and the pilot notified Seattle Center of the low fuel situation. Shortly after contacting Seattle Center, the aircraft's engine began "sputtering" and the pilot initiated a forced landing to a wooded area near Pinehurst.

Personnel from the Oregon State Police (aviation division) visually inspected the aircraft and reported that they observed approximately 1/2 gallon of blue aviation grade fuel in the aircraft's right fuel tank, and approximately 1 1/2 - 2 gallons of blue aviation grade fuel in the aircraft's left fuel tank. The State Trooper also reported that the fuel tanks were not breached and there was no evidence of a preexisting fuel leak (see attached report).

According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), the total fuel capacity for the aircraft is 50 U.S. gallons. The total useable fuel is 48 U.S. gallons, and the total unusable fuel is 2 gallons (one gallon per wing tank).

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