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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA16LA258
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 16, 2016 in Westwood, MA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/06/2017
Aircraft: PIPER PA24, registration: N11MT
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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 private pilot/co-owner of the airplane departed on a roundtrip flight with the right main fuel tank full and the left main fuel tank "down about three gallons." He stated that, based on his preflight performance planning and visual inspection of the fuel supply, the fuel in the main tanks would be sufficient for the flight. The outbound leg was conducted with the fuel selector on the right main tank, and the return leg was flown with the fuel selector on the left main tank. Shortly after being cleared for landing near the end of the return leg, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power, and descended into wooded terrain about 1 mile from the airport.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that the right main fuel tank contained 2 gallons of fuel, that the left main tank was empty, and that both 15-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks were full. The engine was subsequently placed in a test cell where it started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously at all power settings. The co-owner of the airplane stated that the left fuel tank leaked when the tank was full and that they mitigated the problem by not completely filling the left main fuel tank. The pilot likely mis-estimated the fuel available in the tanks during his preflight visual inspection, and it is likely that fuel leaked from the left tank during the flight, further reducing the available fuel quantity. These factors resulted in a loss of engine power consistent with fuel starvation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's improper fuel management, which resulted in exhaustion of the fuel in the selected fuel tank and a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.