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On May 18, 2009, about 1715 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA 28-181, N4130W, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in a sparsely populated area, near Dingman, Pennsylvania. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight which departed White Birch Field Airport (NK68), Hancock, New York about 1645 with an intended destination of Somerset Airport (SMQ), Somerset, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot was not injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The pilot stated that earlier in the day he had departed SMQ, where his airplane was based, for NK68. After spending about 6 hours in the Hancock, New York area he departed for SMQ. The pilot stated that he did not file a flight plan nor was he in communication with any air traffic control facilities. While in cruise flight, at 6,500 feet above mean sea level, the "engine sounded like it was out of fuel" and the "propeller just stopped." He immediately began performing his emergency checklist which included switching the fuel tanks; however, the engine did not respond. He also utilized his global positioning system to locate the nearest airport, however the nearest airport was about 12 miles away which, at the altitude he was at, he felt was too far away. He saw a multi-lane road, due to the hour of the day he felt that the road was too heavily traveled and would "create a hazard by landing there." He then saw an open field and proceeded to attempt to land in it. As he approached the open field he realized it was a park with a playground. He then attempted to locate another place to land; however, there was no other location suitable. The airplane's altitude was not sufficient enough to glide to the open field and the airplane "settled into the trees." The airplane came to rest in the tops of the trees, approximately 25 feet above ground level, and the pilot exited the airplane and descended down the tree. The airplane was noticed the following day, by a passer-by, still in the tree.
The pilot, age 50, held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued on August 7, 2007. At the time of the accident, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 871 hours and a total flight experience in the accident airplane make and model of 775 hours.
The accident airplane, a Piper PA-28-181, was manufactured in 1999, and registered with the FAA that same year. The four-seat, single-engine land airplane was equipped with a tricycle landing gear and had accrued 5,140 total flight hours. The airplane was equipped with a 180 horsepower O-360-A4M model, Lycoming engine. According to the pilot the engine had accrued 2,019 total hours, 1,549 hours since overhaul, and 13 hours since its last inspection. The engine was equipped with a fixed pitch, Sensenich propeller, model 76EMS14-0-62. The max gross weight of the airplane was 2,558 pounds and the weight at the time of the accident was 2,036 pounds.
The 1754 recorded weather observation at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania, 35 nautical miles to the west of the accident location, included winds from 340 degrees at 6 knots; visibility 10 miles, a cloud layer at 7000 feet agl, temperature 13 degrees C, dew point minus 3 degrees C; altimeter 30.28 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
An on scene investigation by an inspector with the FAA revealed that the right wing spar was slightly bent in the positive direction and both fuel tanks were void of fuel. The airplane was removed from the tree, lowered to the ground, and the engine was examined; approximately 6 ounces of fuel was drained from the engine and fuel system.
The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the most recent time he had purchased fuel was near Albany, New York on a previous trip. He further stated that he normally does not purchase fuel at SMQ. The most recent fuel receipt that was located was dated April 23, 2009 and revealed that the local fixed base operator fueled the airplane with 39 gallons of fuel. The pilot stated that since fueling he flew from Albany International Airport (ALB), Albany, New York to SMQ, and then the next flight was the day of the accident from SMQ to NK68 with the intention of returning to SMQ. When asked if the engine made any unusual sounds prior to stopping and the pilots stated "there was no abnormal sound."
According to the airplane Pilot's Operating Handbook the airplane's glide range in a no wind condition was about 10 miles.