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N475F accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 39.610556°N, 80.376945°W
Nearest city Metz, WV
39.580361°N, 80.369805°W
2.1 miles away
Tail number N475F
Accident date 03 Oct 2003
Aircraft type Williams RV-4
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 3, 2003, about 1725 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt RV-4 was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Metz, West Virginia. The certificated airline transport pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight which departed from Danville, Illinois. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was destined for Morgantown, West Virginia, and was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he had purchased the airplane on September 5, 2003, and then received 3 hours of dual instruction in the airplane from a flight instructor. He departed on a cross-country flight to bring the airplane to Manassas Regional Airport (HEF), Manassas, Virginia. The pilot further reported that due to inaccurate fuel gauges, he kept the planned flight to a maximum of 2.5 hours. The pilot reported that the fuel burn on the two legs that preceded the accident flight were 9.4 gallons per hour, and 8.9 gallons per hour. The pilot added that he had requested the refueler to keep the fuel down about 1/2 to 1 inch below the top of the refueling neck to avoid spillage of fuel onto the wing.

However, the refueler remembered that the pilot asked for the fuel level to be about 1 to 1.5 inches down from the top.

Records from the airport indicated that the airplane was serviced with 13.8 gallons of 100 LL (low lead) aviation grade gasoline.

The pilot said he was not present when the airplane was refueled, however, he added that he did remove the fuel caps and look into the wing and saw that the fuel was what he estimated to be about 1 inch down from the top of the fuel tank. He reported his departure time from Danville as about 1500 eastern daylight time.

The pilot reported that after he contacted Morgantown control tower, the engine sputtered and then lost power. He turned on the electric boost pump and switched fuel tanks, but was unable to restore engine power, and declared and emergency. He further stated:

"...The only place I saw was an area of grass in a gully surrounded by mountains and trees on all sides. I slowed the aircraft and put out my full flaps while turning 180 degrees toward the spot, at the same time applying a very steep slip maneuver to get the aircraft past the steep incline. I touched down on the grass but the strip was divided in about half with an old barn in the middle. When I saw that I was going to hit the barn dead on, I got the aircraft off the ground again to pass through a 25-35 foot opening between the barn and the line of trees. The aircraft's left wing clipped an electrical pole and the aircraft's speed was slowed up as well as causing the aircraft to make a 180 degree turn and then crash tail first...."

According to records from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot initially established radio contact with the Morgantown control tower at 1720. He declared an emergency at 1724:40.

An FAA inspector reported that there was no evidence of a fuel spill on the ground, and not a strong odor of fuel at the accident site. The left fuel tank contained trace amounts of fuel. All fuel lines were checked and found to be secure, and there was no blue staining on the bottom of the fuselage. The spark plugs were slate gray in appearance. There was no blue staining behind the fuel caps on the tops of the wings. However, he added that heavy rain had fallen for two days between the time of the accident, and when he examined the airplane.

Both fuel tanks were broken open, and attempts to fill the tanks with water to check the capacity resulted in water running out onto the ground.

The airplane was built from a kit. According to a representative of the kit manufacturer, the fuel tanks are not pre-formed, and therefore, the builder constructs the fuel tanks along with other items. The fuel capacity of the tanks was reported to be 16 gallons per side. However, the kit manufacturer representative also reported that this amount could vary by a gallon or two due to construction methods used, and how close the builder stuck to the original plans. In addition, the location of the fuel pickup point could affect the amount of unusable fuel remaining in the fuel tank.

The FAA had issued Experimental Operating Limitations for the airplane. Included in the limitations were inspection and maintenance information that the pilot was required to comply with. According to item # 5 in the Experimental Operating Limitations:

"Aircraft instruments and equipment installed and used under the listed sections of 14 CFR, Part 91.205 (b through e) must be inspected and maintained in accordance with the requirements of 14 CFR, Part 91...."

According to 14 CFR Part 91.205 (b)(9), the airplane was required to have a fuel gauge indicating the quantity of fuel in each tank.

According to the West Virginia State Police, the pilot requested and received a field sobriety test, and no alcohol was noted.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to operate without accurate fuel gauges, which resulted in a power loss due to fuel exhaustion, and an off airport landing

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