On May 16, 2002, at 0315 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-151, N75303, was substantially damaged during a forced landing to Interstate 70 in Port Columbus, Ohio. The certificated private pilot/owner and the passenger were not injured. The flight originated at Oneida County Airport (UCA), Utica, New York, at 2235, on May 15, 2002, and was destined for Rickenbacker Airport (LCK), Columbus, Ohio. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A review of air traffic control (ATC) transcripts from the Rickenbacker control tower revealed that the pilot contacted the tower controller at 03:07:41, and requested a full stop landing. About 2 minutes later, the pilot transmitted, "Ah. We got to declare an emergency, we're out of fuel."

The tower controller and the pilot discussed possible landing sites for about 2 minutes. The pilot requested vectors, but didn't identify a destination airport. The controller asked the pilot a few times to state his intentions for landing, but the pilot was unable to identify an airport. During the exchange the pilot said, "I'm ah, out of fuel.", and, "I should have picked up a little more fuel."

During a telephone interview, the pilot stated that his intent was to fly to Oneida County Airport, and then return to Rickenbacker Airport. He obtained a weather briefing, performed a preflight inspection and estimated there were about 40 gallons of fuel on board the airplane. The flight was completed to Oneida County Airport, where the tanks were completely filled with fuel.

During the return flight, the airplane encountered a headwind, and the pilot changed altitude several times in search of more favorable winds. He climbed to 8,500 feet, then to 10,500 feet. He descended to 6,500 feet, and then climbed back to 8,500 feet. Still, the pilot estimated his groundspeed at 100 knots.

Approaching Columbus, about three minutes out, the engine started "popping and sputtering."

The airplane was then at 2,500 feet, and the pilot had just switched from the right fuel tank to the left fuel tank. He initiated a climb to 4,500 feet, and started a search for a forced landing area. He switched the fuel selector back and forth between tanks, and adjusted the throttle, mixture, and carburetor heat to restore power.

Engine power was restored temporarily when the pilot switched back to the right fuel tank, but the engine eventually stopped producing power. The pilot then maneuvered the airplane to perform a forced landing to Interstate 70. While maneuvering in close proximity to the ground, the left wing struck a pole, and the airplane touched down, slid along the median strip, nosed over, and came to rest inverted. The accident site was about 10 miles northeast of Rickenbacker Airport.

The pilot was interviewed at the scene, and in the days following the accident, by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The inspector summarized the interviews and his observations in a written statement. According to his statement, there was no odor of fuel, or evidence of fuel spillage at the scene. Only a trace amount of fuel was recovered from the right wing, and there was no fuel in the left wing, the fuel pump, the fuel lines, or the engine. In addition, the pilot's fuel consumption calculations had been based on a consumption rate of 8 gallons per hour.

During the telephone interview, the pilot was asked what wind information he obtained during his weather briefing. He said the winds he used for flight planning were from 210 to 270 degrees at 15 to 17 knots.

A Safety Board meteorologist provided upper air soundings along the route of flight on the morning of the accident. The winds were measured between 3,000 feet and 10,000 feet in 1,000-foot intervals. The wind direction was from between 245 degrees and 280 degrees and averaged 36 knots. The peak wind was 50 knots.

The pilot was asked if he had updated his weather briefing when he arrived at the Oneida Airport, or at anytime during the flight, and he replied that he hadn't.

The pilot also stated that the airplane had a fuel capacity of 50 gallons, of which, 48 gallons were usable, and that he navigated both legs of the flight by Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation. Examination of the pilot's logbook and fuel records revealed that the airplane flew 4.3 hours between the last fuel purchase, which filled the tanks, and the fuel purchase at the Oneida County Airport. Examination of the fuel receipt from the fixed base operator at Oneida County revealed that the tanks were filled with 42.9 gallons of fuel.

The airplane was recovered by the owner and moved to a garage. On May 22, 2002, a can of fuel and a fuel line were plumbed into the fuel system downstream of the fuel strainer under the supervision of the FAA inspector.

According to the inspector, the engine started and ran without interruption. The engine was stopped, and an engine re-start was attempted. The engine started immediately, and ran smoothly without interruption.

The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land on April 6, 2002. He was issued an FAA third class medical certificate on November 27, 2001.

The pilot reported 103 hours of flight experience, 95 hours of which were in the PA-28-151.

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