ANC09LA007
ANC09LA007

On October 24, 2008, about 0730 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-32R airplane, N1392H, sustained substantial damage when it collided with trees and terrain following a loss of engine power during takeoff initial climb from the South Hollywood Airpark, about 4.5 miles southwest of Wasilla, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by the pilot. The commercial certificated pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was en route to Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on October 24, the pilot reported that he was departing on runway 24, which is about 2,100 feet long, and about 100 feet wide. During the takeoff roll and initial climb, the fuel selector was on the left wing fuel tank. As the airplane lifted off the ground, the engine began to sputter. The pilot selected the right wing fuel tank, and turned the electric fuel boost pump to the "on" position. The pilot said the engine coughed, but did not catch. The airplane descended into trees and the ground just past the end of the runway, receiving structural damage to the wings and fuselage.

In the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1) submitted by the pilot, the pilot said that during his preflight inspection, he rocked the wings of the airplane and heard fuel sloshing in the wing fuel tanks. After starting the engine, the pilot noted that the left fuel gauge was indicating about 10 gallons, and the right tank was indicating about 15 gallons. The pilot indicated that he taxied the length of the runway before takeoff, and made a 180 degree right turn at the end while adding engine power for the takeoff run. About 100 feet above the ground (agl), the engine began to lose power, and the pilot switched to the right fuel tank, but the engine did not catch before the airplane descended into trees and the ground. The pilot said that after the accident, he noticed that the left wing fuel tank contained about 3 gallons, and the right tank had about 10 to 15 gallons.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) interviewed the pilot. The inspector reported that the pilot thought he may have starved the engine of fuel since the left tank only had about 3 gallons of fuel.

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