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On May 4, 2007, at 1615 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA38-112, N2600N, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during a forced landing near Odenton, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that originated at Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport (1N9), Allentown, Pennsylvania, and was destined for Tipton Airport (FME), Odenton, Maryland. An Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The pilot was interviewed by telephone, and he said that the flight to Tipton was uneventful, and that there were no problems with the performance and handling of the airplane. As he turned the airplane from a southerly heading to an easterly heading to align with the destination runway, he switched fuel tanks, and the engine immediately stopped producing power. According to the pilot, "I made a mistake. I should have switched tanks while the wings were level, before I made the maneuver."
The pilot said that he again switched tanks, turned on the fuel boost pump, and attempted a restart, but lacked the altitude to accomplish the engine start. He then maneuvered the airplane to a two-lane road that ran parallel to the busy state highway beneath him.
A review of radar data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that a target identified as the accident airplane approached the Tipton Airport area from the north. At 1614, the airplane initiated a 90-degree left turn that aligned the radar track toward Tipton Airport. During the turn, the airplane descended from 900 feet to 800 feet, and slowed from 76 knots groundspeed, to 62 knots groundspeed. During the 23 seconds after completion of the turn, the airplane descended to 500 feet, and slowed to 58 knots, before the target went in to coast mode.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on November 6, 2006.
The pilot reported approximately 2,900 total hours of flight experience, 300 hours of which were in make and model.
According to a maintenance receipt, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed March 8, 2007, at 3,885 aircraft hours. The airplane had accrued 3,899 total aircraft hours.
At 1639, the weather recorded at Tipton Airport included clear skies with 10 miles visibility. The wind was from 210 degrees at 3 knots, the temperature was 22 degrees Celsius, and the dewpoint was 0 degrees Celsius. The altimeter setting was 30.20 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was examined on the evening of the accident at the scene, about one-half mile northwest of Tipton Airport. The runway was oriented 100/280 degrees magnetic. The wreckage path was about 120 feet long, and oriented about 115 degrees magnetic. The initial ground scar was on a paved road. The ground scars and skid marks continued off the pavement where the road curved, onto a grass apron, and down an embankment where the airplane came to rest.
The airplane's engine compartment and cockpit came to rest centered between two trees. Each tree was embedded in the leading edge of its respective wing about three feet outboard of the cabin. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft in compression, and each displayed multiple tears and dents across their spans. Both fuel tanks were voided, but the fuel caps remained secure in their ports. There was no odor of fuel, nor was there evidence of fuel spillage at the scene.
Control continuity was established from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces. Examination of the cockpit revealed that the throttle was full forward, the mixture was full rich, and the carburetor heat lever was at mid-travel. The left fuel gauge indicated one-half tank, and the right fuel gauge indicated "Empty." The fuel selector was selected to the right fuel tank position.
The tip of one propeller blade was bent, but the leading edges and faces of each blade were undamaged. The spinner showed a slight dent and some scoring on the side that rested on the ground, but the remainder of the spinner was undamaged.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On May 8, 2007, the engine was examined by two FAA aviation safety inspectors. In a written statement, one inspector said that the engine was rotated by hand at the propeller, and that continuity was established through the powertrain to the valvetrain and accessory section. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method. The right magneto did not produce spark but the left magneto produced spark at all terminal leads. There was approximately 2 teaspoons of fuel in the carburetor bowl.
Examination of fuel records revealed that the airplane was serviced with 11.5 gallons of fuel on May 2, 2007, but that only the left tank was filled. In a written statement, the line service technician stated that the pilot requested that only the left tank be filled. He further stated, "Afterwards he checked the fuel level of the left tank with a home-made fuel indicator consisting of a wooden ruler with markings."
The pilot reported that the accident flight was the second flight since he had serviced the airplane with fuel. The pilot estimated that there were "16 or 17" gallons of fuel in the left tank and 23 gallons of fuel in the right tank when he departed for Tipton Airport, and that he flew "all the way down [to Tipton] on the left tank."
According to the pilot, "I had plenty of fuel, I just didn't manage it right."