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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN15LA117
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 21, 2015 in Goodland, KS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/26/2016
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31-350, registration: N66906
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The commercial pilot was conducting a cargo flight in the airplane. The operator reported that, during taxi and takeoff, the pilot noted no issues with the airplane. During cruise flight, the left engine lost total power. The right engine then also lost total power, but the pilot failed to complete any of the required engine failure emergency procedures. He chose to perform a forced landing, during which the airplane impacted power lines and then a field, which resulted in substantial damage to the airplane.
On-scene examination revealed that there was no apparent fuel smell nor fuel on the ground. During postaccident examination of the airplane, no useable fuel was found in the left and right outboard fuel tanks; however, 35 gallons of fuel were found in each of the two inboard fuel tanks. The fuel selectors were found in the “off” position. Further examination of the fuel system revealed that there was no fuel in the fuel lines leading to the left engine and that only about 2 teaspoons of fuel was present in the fuel inlet line to the right engine fuel strainer, indicating that the pilot had not properly managed the fuel, which led to fuel starvation to both engines. The examination revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
Further, postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the pilot had not feathered both propellers, which would have increased the airplane’s glide distance, and that he had not extended the flaps, which would have resulted in a slower touchdown speed and lower impact energy during the forced landing. Therefore, the pilot did not properly configure the airplane for the forced landing, which resulted in its high-energy impact with power lines and terrain.
The pilot was on duty all night the day before the accident and had to reposition a flight at 0330, at which point he had been awake for about 15 hours. The pilot reported that, about 40 minutes into the flight, he was definitely starting to feel fatigued. Shortly later, the engine issues began. The pilot reported that he believed that a high level of fatigue, previous issues with another airplane he had flown that day, and a recent company airplane accident had "caused him to not think straight and not perform the proper emergency procedures for engine failure in flight."

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s improper fuel management and failure to conduct the engine failure emergency procedures and his improper conduct of the forced landing, which resulted in fuel starvation, a total loss of engine power, and the subsequent high-energy impact with power lines and terrain. Contributing to the accident was pilot fatigue.