On August 12, 2002, approximately 1315 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182 airplane, N6420A, was ditched in Bellingham Bay approximately 3 nautical miles south of Bellingham International Airport (BLI), Bellingham, Washington, while on a VFR final approach to a full-stop landing. Following the ditching, all three aircraft occupants, consisting of the commercial pilot-in-command and two passengers, escaped the aircraft and were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. The pilot and one passenger received minor injuries, the other passenger was uninjured, and the aircraft, which was owned and operated by the pilot, was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at Bellingham at 1253 and 1353, and no flight plan had been filed for the 14 CFR 91 personal flight that departed Rogers Field (O05), Chester, California, four hours and 30 minutes earlier.

According to radio transmissions recorded by the FAA, the pilot called the Bellingham airport control tower for landing when he was about 20 miles south of Bellingham, and was given a straight-in approach to runway 34 and instructed to report a 4-mile final. As instructed, the pilot reported when he was on a 4-mile final, and was cleared to land by the tower. Seconds after being cleared to land, the pilot reported that the aircraft was "out of gas", and that it was going into the water.

According to the pilot, as he approached the Bellingham area, both fuel gauges were indicating that the fuel supply was nearly exhausted, but he thought he would have enough fuel remaining to successfully complete his descent to a landing. A post-accident inspection of the aircraft revealed that except for a small amount of residual fuel, both wing fuel tanks were essentially empty.

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