NYC02LA182
NYC02LA182

On September 5, 2002, at 2137 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Vans RV-9A, N945D, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Oxford, Ohio. The certificated private pilot-builder and his pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time. No flight plan had been filed for the local flight, which originated at Hamilton Airport (HAO), Hamilton, Ohio. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he departed Hamilton about 2130, and climbed the airplane to 3,500 feet, heading east. Approximately 15 miles from the airport, the engine sputtered. The pilot switched to the left fuel tank and turned on the fuel boost pump. Engine power resumed for about 5 minutes, then the engine quit.

According to the pilot's GPS, Miami University Airport (OXD), Oxford, Ohio, was the closest airport [elevation 1,045 feet], about 3 miles away. The pilot keyed the microphone on frequency 122.8, and attempted to turn on the runway lights; however, the airport remained "black dark." The pilot spotted the airport beacon and red lights, but could not determine the "direction of runway."

The pilot then alerted air traffic control personnel of his problem. He subsequently spotted a house and few cars on a road. He saw a separation between cars, and decided to follow one of them to a landing on the road. He landed, missing a tree in the process, then hit a sign after five or six bounces. The airplane veered off the road, to the right, and entered a soybean field where it nosed over.

After the accident, the pilot stated that he had run out of fuel, and a subsequent examination of the airplane confirmed the absence of fuel.

The fuel gauge had been replaced with an Electronics International FL-2CA gauge on August 27, 2002, and the airplane had accumulated 11.4 hours of operating time since its installation. The pilot had difficulty calibrating the gauge, so he contacted the manufacturer for assistance. While on the telephone with a representative of the manufacturer, he had had a fuel truck at the airplane, and was emptying and filling the tanks at varying stages of the calibration, based on the representative's directions. During the calibration, the fuel gauge calibration points kept dropping out of the gauge's memory.

The pilot filled the fuel tanks at 47.0 hours on the Hobbs meter, and it the engine quit at 50.9 hours. The pilot subsequently stated that he thought he had departed with about 1/2 tank of fuel, and the flight was planned for 1 hour. The fuel gauge indicated 8 gallons after the fuel had been exhausted, and the pilot was not sure if the problem was with a faulty gauge, the calibration procedures, or the capacitance probes.

A "must read" notice in the fuel gauge operating and instructions manual stated: "Do not solely rely on the FL-2 to determine the fuel level in the fuel tanks."

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