On April 20, 2001, about 2323 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N286FT, was substantially damaged during a forced landing, while on approach to Winchester Regional Airport (OKV), Winchester, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a visual flight rules flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot stated that the fuel tanks were "topped off," and he departed Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN), New Haven, Connecticut, about 2000. The pilot estimated that with the full tanks, the airplane had an endurance of at least 4.5 hours. He began the flight with the fuel selector positioned to the left tank, and he switched fuel tanks about every 15 minutes. The pilot added that after 3 hours en route, he was near Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB), Martinsburg, West Virginia. The pilot observed that the left fuel gauge displayed "E" and the right fuel gauge displayed "1/4." As a precaution, he diverted to MRB, but was unable to activate the pilot-controlled runway lighting. Therefore, he did not land, and continued to OKV.

While on a straight-in approach to runway 14, on an approximate 1.5-mile final leg, the engine "sputtered." The pilot turned the electric fuel pump "OFF," then back "ON." The engine momentarily sounded normal, but then started sputtering after 30 seconds. The pilot then applied carburetor heat, and the engine "shutterred." He also moved the fuel selector from "LEFT" to "RIGHT." The engine revved for about 1/2 second, then lost all power. The airplane was about 800 feet above the ground, and the pilot positioned the fuel selector back to the left tank, but the engine did not restart. The airplane struck trees and came to rest about 3/4 mile prior to the runway.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, and a local mechanic, revealed that the right wing had separated from the airplane, and the right fuel tank had been compromised during the impact. The left wing was displaced 45 degrees upward, but the left fuel tank was not compromised. The inspector and mechanic drained approximately 1 cup of fuel from the left tank, and it appeared absent of contamination. When the airplane was recovered, a salvage crew drained the remaining fuel from the left tank, which equaled about 1 pint. The FAA inspector added that after the accident, the MRB Airport Manager tested the pilot controlled lighting, and it functioned normally.

Review of a PA-28-161 pilot's operating handbook revealed that at 75 percent best power cruise setting, the engine would consume 10.0 gallons of fuel per hour. Each wing contained a 25-gallon fuel tank; of which, 24 gallons of fuel were useable.

The pilot reported a total flight experience of approximately 84 hours, of which, about 55 were in the make and model accident airplane. He obtained his private pilot certificate on February 27, 2001.

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