IAD05LA105
IAD05LA105

On July 20, 2005, at 1642 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, N7767N, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Copake, New York. The certificated private pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which departed Clearfield-Lawrence Airport (FIG), Clearfield, Pennsylvania, destined for Walter J. Koladza Airport (GBR), Great Barrington, Massachusetts. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, about 1420, the airplane was filled with fuel to a point just above the "tabs" in the fuel tanks, which the pilot estimated to be about 40 gallons of fuel. After completing his preflight, which included "sumping" the fuel tanks, he departed for Great Barrington about 1500. On departure from Clearfield, he climbed the airplane to 3,500 feet msl; and switched to the right fuel tank near Scranton, Pennsylvania. As he approached the Catskill Mountains, he climbed to an altitude of 5,500 feet msl. After passing over the Hudson River he descended to 2,500 feet msl. A few minutes later the engine began to "sputter," and then lost power.

After advising the Albany approach control facility of his problem, the approach controller advised the pilot that the closest airport was approximately 6 miles from his position near Copake, New York. During the descent, the pilot switched to the left fuel tank, placed the mixture control in the full rich position, turned the electric fuel pump on, turned on the carburetor heat, and tried to restart the engine without result.

The propeller continued to windmill during the descent and the pilot noted that no fuel pressure was indicated by the fuel pressure gauge. He tried to start the engine again, and switched back to the right fuel tank. The engine again did not start, and no fuel pressure was indicated. He decided that he was "running out of time," and continued to glide the airplane to the airport which the approach control facility had identified. The pilot realized he would not make the airport, and decided to attempt an off airport landing in a field.

On approach to the field he passed over some high trees and a house, then selected "full flaps" for landing. The field was "too short," he was unable to land, and after gliding the length of the field the airplane impacted trees at the opposite end.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane came to rest in a wooded area, with the left and right wings separated from the main fuselage.

During an interview conducted by a police officer, the pilot stated "that he had over 5 gallons of fuel in the left fuel tank and 15 to 20 gallons in the right fuel tank."

Examination of the airplane revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies.

Examination of the fuel system revealed that when electrical power was applied to the airplane, the auxiliary electric fuel pump motor operated. The fuel strainer contained approximately 2 ounces of fuel, but the carburetor bowl was dry. No blockage or contamination of the fuel system was evident.

According to the airplane manufacturer, fuel quantity as indicated by the filler neck indicators (tabs) was 36 gallons. This advisory information was originally placarded at each fuel filler port. Examination of the airplane revealed, however; that the original placards had been removed and were replaced, with placards that did not contain the filler neck indicator information.

A review of the fuel provider's records revealed that the aircraft was filled with 14.2 gallons of fuel, prior to the accident flight.

According to the police officer that was first on scene and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, they attempted to check the quantity of fuel in the airplane by looking into the fuel tanks, and were unable to observe any fuel.

No smell of fuel was noted at the accident site, and no evidence of fuel staining or spillage was present.

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