MIA06CA111
MIA06CA111

On May 16, 2006, about 1314 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N8149Q, registered to and operated by Ormond Beach Aviation, Inc., was landed hard in a field during a forced landing shortly after takeoff from Ormond Beach Airport, Ormond Beach, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 local, instructional flight from Ormond Beach Airport. The airplane was substantially damaged and the student pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The student pilot stated that during his preflight check of the airplane he noted the left fuel tank had more fuel than the right which was brought to the attention of his certified flight instructor (CFI). He and the CFI departed earlier on the day of the accident on a cross country flight and returned to the departure airport about 1 hour later. He and his CFI had a short duration flight before departing again on a cross country flight which lasted approximately 1 hour. The flight returned and remained in the traffic pattern where touch-and-go landings were performed. After the last touch-and-go landing the airplane was taxied to the ramp where his CFI looked at the fuel gauges and verbally advised him the left tank still had more fuel so keep supplying fuel to the engine from that tank during solo traffic pattern work. The CFI exited the airplane with the engine running and the student then taxied solo to the active runway in-use. He received clearance from the tower to position and hold for another airplane that was departing from the same runway then was cleared for takeoff. During the upwind leg the engine ..."began to sputter as though it had no fuel left and as a result lost a bit of height." The engine remained running and he informed the controller of the situation then engine power was restored so he continued the takeoff. He pitched up in an attempt to clear trees ahead and the engine again started to sputter, then quit completely. He declared an emergency with the tower and collided with trees then the ground. He stated he was later informed by a student of the operator that the left fuel gauge was placarded as being inoperative and his instructor "...missed before sending me up to do circuits."

The CFI who flew with the student earlier that day reported that before the first flight both fuel tanks were visually inspected and found to be full of fuel. The flight departed and proceeded to a nearby airport and remained on the ground approximately 12 minutes before returning to the departure airport. The flight duration was approximately 1.1 hour. Before departure on another flight he visually checked the fuel tanks and noted the fuel level in both was to the tabs, though the fuel gauges indicated a slightly greater quantity of fuel. The flight departed and proceeded to another nearby airport where 2 full-stop taxi back landings were performed. The flight returned to the departure airport where 3 touch-and-go landings and a go-around were performed. The flight returned and while taxiing after landing, he reportedly advised the student that he "...should get fuel before he goes back out." The flight duration of the second flight was approximately 1.7 hours. He (CFI) went inside their building then returned to the airplane and reportedly again advised the student to "...be safe, have fun, fill it up." The CFI reported seeing the airplane during the accident flight takeoff and reported seeing the airplane when it was approximately 1/3 down the runway. The CFI noted the airplane flared when the flight was 2 feet above the runway then heard full power applied. The airplane then climbed to approximately 50 feet then "...looked like it stalled." The airplane then appeared to climb following a recovery from a stall then banked to the west. He reported asking the student post accident if he filled the tanks and the student responded he thought the CFI meant to fill the tanks after landing following his solo flight.

A witness who was located at a "fuel farm" on the airport reported hearing the engine running then heard it quit. He looked at the airplane and reported seeing the angle of attack decrease followed by hearing engine power restored. This sequence in which the engine quit during a climb, then engine power being restored after decreasing pitch attitude occurred a total of 3 times. After the engine quit for the last time the airplane went behind obstructions and he did not hear any more engine sound. When he arrived at the airplane the fuel selector was positioned to the left tank which was empty, and the right tank was approximately 1/2 full of fuel.

The airplane crashed off airport property approximately 1/2 mile. During recovery of the airplane the company Director of Maintenance reported he did not observe any placard on the instrument panel indicating the left fuel gauge was inoperative. The airplane was recovered by a crane and repositioned on the airport for further examination.

Post accident examination of the wreckage by an FAA airworthiness inspector revealed the left fuel supply lines did not contain any fuel, and there was no fuel in the left fuel tank. Additionally, the fuel selector was observed positioned on the left fuel tank. Impact damaged components consisting of induction pipes, exhaust system components, and propeller were removed and replaced in anticipating of an engine run. With FAA oversight, the engine was started and operated to 1,000 rpm where concerns about internal engine damage precluded operation to a higher rpm. No engine discrepancies were noted and the engine was secured. The fuel quantity indicating system was checked for accuracy and with electrical power applied, the left fuel gauge "...pegged on full." The left fuel transmitter and fuel gauge were checked independently; no discrepancies noted. Examination of the electrical wiring revealed "...a high resistance in the connector located under the rear seat at the wing root. When this connector was eliminated the fuel quantity system operated normally."

A review of the provided Aircraft Discrepancy-Deficiency Report" sheet, there was no list discrepancies.

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