IAD05LA017
IAD05LA017

On November 27, 2004, at 1420 eastern standard time, a homebuilt Kitfox Speedster, N124KF, was substantially damaged following a forced landing near Sterling Airport (3B3), Sterling, Massachusetts. The certificated airline transport pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The personal flight, which departed Dillant-Hopkins Airport (EEN), Keen, New Hampshire, was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he was descending from 3,500 feet to the traffic pattern altitude. When he reduced the throttle, the engine "sputtered, then started to windmill." He reduced airspeed to best glide speed by pitching the airplane up, and as he did, the engine briefly revived, but stopped several seconds later. He determined that due to the descent rate, the airplane would not reach the runway, so he elected to land in trees 100 feet short of the runway.

The airplane was examined at the scene by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. The fuel tanks of the airplane were intact, but due to the positioning of the airplane, the inspector could only access the left fuel tank, which contained only trace amounts of fuel. The airplane was subsequently transferred to an aircraft recovery facility where all of the fuel tanks were inspected and found to be absent of fuel.

The airplane's Rotax engine was not test run due to damage sustained during the accident.

During a telephone interview, the pilot stated that the fuel level in the wing fuel tanks was determined by looking through a sight glass. He also stated that because of a modification he had made to the airplane, he considered the fuel level readings to be unreliable when the airplane was on the ground. He further stated that when the airplane was airborne, the fuel level readings were reliable, but during the accident flight, he did not notice what the fuel level readings were.

When asked, the pilot stated that prior to his initial departure, he believed that the left fuel tank was 3/8 full and the right tank was 1/4 full. He estimated the fuel consumption rate of the engine to be about 3.7 to 4 gallons per hour based on fuel consumption calculations from previous flights.

During an interview with the FAA inspector, the pilot stated that he made two separate flights, and estimated them to have been about 45 minutes in length each. He estimated the total engine running time was 2 hours plus.

According to a representative of Skystar Aircraft, the airplane kit manufacturer, the Kitfox Speedster had one 13-gallon fuel tank in each wing and a 0.9-gallon header tank. The header tank was located behind the pilot's seat and was not accessible during a preflight inspection, or during flight. The representative also stated that the engine consumed about 4.5 gallons of fuel per hour at a cruise power setting, and about 6 gallons of fuel per hour at a high power setting.

The weather reported at Fitchburg Municipal Airport (FIT), Fitchburg, Massachusetts, about 8 nautical miles north, at 1352, included winds from 180 degrees at 9 knots and an overcast ceiling at 7,500 feet.

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