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N820CA accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 38.428334°N, 82.311667°W
Nearest city Huntington, WV
38.419250°N, 82.445154°W
7.3 miles away
Tail number N820CA
Accident date 25 May 2003
Aircraft type Piper PA32-260
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On May 25, 2003, about 0825 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N820CA, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Huntington, West Virginia. The certificated private pilot and the pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight departed from Lawrence County Airpark (HTW), Huntington, West Virginia, for Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport (PMH), Portsmouth, Ohio. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he was aware of a fly-in at another local airport, and elected to over-fly that airport prior to heading to Portsmouth. The pilot overflew runway 02 at Robert Newlon Field, Huntington (I41), West Virginia, on a 020-degree heading, about 1,000 feet above it. As he turned crosswind near the end of the runway, the engine surged, then lost power. The pilot immediately turned onto a downwind leg for landing, and observed that he did not have any fuel pressure. He switched fuel tanks, and turned on the electric boost pump. However, the fuel pressure was not restored, and the engine did not regain power. The pilot continued with a forced landing, and turned onto base leg, close-in to the airport, then turned onto the final approach. The touchdown was past midfield of the 2,300-foot runway, with an airspeed of 75 to 80 mph. The pilot was unable to stop the airplane on the runway, overran the departure end of the runway, and struck a pile of gravel, followed by a pile of scrap metal located beyond the runway.

The pilot reported that earlier in the morning, he had flown the airplane for about 35 to 40 minutes. Prior to departing on that flight, he had visually inspected the fuel tanks and determined that both outboard fuel tanks were empty, the right inboard fuel tank was full, and the left inboard fuel tank was just below the tab, which represented 18 gallons of fuel. That flight was made using fuel from the left inboard fuel tank. The pilot reported that prior to departing on the accident flight, he did not visually inspect the left fuel tank to see how much fuel remained. The accident flight was also made using fuel from the left inboard fuel tank. The fuel selector was not changed to another tank until the power loss occurred.

Examination of the airplane by an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the right fuel tank had ruptured, and there was a visible fuel spill. The left fuel tank remained intact, and when drained, yielded about 1 gallon of a blue liquid, consistent with 100 low lead aviation grade gasoline. The fuel lines leading to the engine-driven fuel pump and the carburetor contained trace amounts of fuel. The fuel lines from both tanks leading to the fuel selector were checked and found to be free of obstructions. Nothing was found that would have prevented the flow of fuel to the carburetor.

When the battery switch was turned on, the left fuel gauge indicated about 1/8 capacity. There was a small amount of fuel remaining in the left fuel tank after the FAA inspector had drained the 1 gallon, and when the boost pump was turned on, fuel flowed through the line to the carburetor. In addition, when the engine was rotated, the engine driven mechanical fuel pump was observed to pump fuel.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to position the fuel selector to a tank with adequate fuel for the flight, which resulted in a power loss due to fuel starvation and the subsequent forced landing.

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