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N6970S accident description

Delaware map... Delaware list
Crash location 39.333333°N, 75.583333°W
Nearest city Smyrna, DE
39.299834°N, 75.604649°W
2.6 miles away
Tail number N6970S
Accident date 29 Jun 2006
Aircraft type Cessna 150H
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 29, 2006, about 2300 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150H, N6970S, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Smyrna, Delaware. The certificated airline transport pilot and the passenger were seriously injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight was not operating on a flight plan, from Monticello Airport (N37), Monticello, New York, and Bay Bridge Airport (W29), Stevensville, Maryland. The personal flight was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the pilot's wife, he was unable to recall the accident or the events that led up to it due to the extent and permanence of his head injuries. The pilot's wife further noted that he had originally departed Bay Bridge, and was returning from Monticello, where he had picked up their daughter from school. The daughter had related to her that before taking off from Monticello, the pilot had "stuck" the tanks, and had shown her how much fuel was needed for the return trip, and how much fuel was available.

There was no evidence that the pilot refueled the airplane at Monticello.

According to a Delaware State Police report, four witnesses who were outside at the time of the accident all reported that they heard the engine sputter a few times and could see the airplane "coming in low." The airplane then "banked hard left" toward a field, and they subsequently heard an impact. The on-scene trooper further reported that when he examined the field, there was no sign of the airplane touching down in it, but there were impact marks on several trees about 10 feet off the ground in the vicinity of the wreckage. A news photograph of the accident scene also showed the tree impact marks, as well as the airplane resting at the base of the trees.

The trooper also interviewed the daughter in the hospital. She stated to him that they were flying "direct" to Bay Bridge Airport. They were "low on fuel and her dad was having a hard time keeping the plane up." After seeing the field, her father attempted to land in it, and the only other thing she recalled was the airplane hitting a tree.

According to the operator of the airplane, which was rented, the pilot purchased fuel prior to his departure from Bay Bridge. The operator was unsure of whether the amount purchased topped off the tanks, but it was typical for pilots to do so prior to departure. The operator also stated that according to his dispatch log, the airplane flew about 4.4 hours during the accident flight, and that flight planning was typically based on 6 gallons per hour at 90 to 100 knots.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the fuel tanks were damaged but not punctured. The firewall-mounted fuel bowl contained "some" fuel but was not full. Four tablespoons of pale yellow fuel were drained from the strainer, 1/2 gallon of fuel from the left tank, and 1 gallon of fuel from the right tank. There was no fire. According to the Model 150 Owner's Manual, total usable fuel was 22.5 gallons, and unusable fuel was 3.5 gallons.

A subsequent wreckage examination at a storage facility by Cessna and Safety Board investigators revealed no mechanical anomalies and no indication of preimpact fuel leakage. The fuel shut-off valve was "ON," both fuel caps were of the vented type, and the seals were pliable.

The direct line distance from Bay Bridge to Monticello was 177 nautical miles, which did not take into account pilot deviations for traffic, airspace, or weather. The exact route of flight was not known; however, there were a number of airports along the general route where the pilot could have refueled the airplane.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's misjudged fuel calculations, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and subsequent loss of engine power. A factor was the nighttime lighting conditions.

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