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N11MT accident description

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Crash location 42.209444°N, 71.158333°W
Nearest city Westwood, MA
42.216765°N, 71.216165°W
3.0 miles away
Tail number N11MT
Accident date 16 Jul 2016
Aircraft type Piper PA24
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On July 16, 2016, at 1517 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-24-260, N11MT, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Westwood, Massachusetts, during approach to Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD), Norwood, Massachusetts. The private pilot/co-owner was seriously injured, and the passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed from Knox County Regional Airport (RKD), Rockland, Maine, and was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot was not available for interview due to his injuries. He was interviewed by his attorney, who provided a written statement on his behalf.

According to the statement, the pilot and passenger planned a round-trip flight from OWD to RKD to attend a fly-in event. The pilot estimated his outbound and return legs each took 1 hour and 20 minutes, and that the airplane consumed 22 gallons of fuel on each leg. According to his statement, the pilot "…reasonably assumed that he had sufficient fuel with approximately 5 gallons of reserves to safely arrive back at Norwood without the need to switch to the auxiliary tanks during his return flight."

Prior to departure, the pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane "generally consistent" with the manufacturer's pilot's operating handbook. His visual inspection of the main fuel tanks "confirmed" that the right wing tank was full, the left wing tank was "down about 3 gallons," and that both right and left auxiliary tanks were full.

The pilot stated that the flight to RKD was completed with the fuel selector on the right main fuel tank, and the return flight to OWD was completed with the fuel selector on the left main fuel tank. After being cleared for landing at OWD, the engine "abruptly" lost power, and the pilot conducted a forced landing to wooded terrain.

Information from the OWD local controller revealed the airplane was about 3 miles north of the airport when it was cleared to land on runway 28. Shortly thereafter, the pilot reported a loss of engine power and the controller watched as the airplane descended into wooded terrain about 1 mile from the airport.

In an interview with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors, a witness close to the accident site said he watched the airplane overfly the woods at low altitude before it flew out of sight and he heard the sounds of impact. He said the airplane made a "funny noise" but that he could not associate the sound with the engine.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He was issued an FAA third-class medical certificate on April 21, 2016. The pilot reported 4,550 total hours of flight experience on that date.

The four-seat, single-engine, low-wing airplane was manufactured in 1968, and was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540, 310-horsepower engine. There was a 30-gallon main fuel tank (28 gallons useable) and a 15-gallon auxiliary fuel tank mounted in each wing.

The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed July 28, 2015. It had accrued 4,239 total aircraft hours as of that date.

The co-owner of the airplane reported to his mechanic prior to the accident, and later to the FAA inspector who responded to the accident site, that the airplane's left main fuel tank leaked. The mechanic reported to an FAA inspector that one of the owners of the airplane had contacted him a few weeks before the accident and requested that he order replacement bladders for both the left and right main fuel tanks so they could be replaced at the next annual inspection. According to the mechanic, the owners mitigated the leak by not filling the left main tank completely.

Examination of the wreckage by the FAA inspector revealed substantial damage to the airplane's wings and fuselage. Control continuity was confirmed, and examination of the fuel tanks revealed that the left main fuel tank was empty, the right main fuel tank contained about 2 gallons of fuel, and both auxiliary fuel tanks were full. Disassembly of the airplane by recovery specialists confirmed continuity of the fuel system, and the fuel quantities previously observed in each tank. The fuel selector was found between the "Left Main" and "Off" positions. The pilot reported to first responders that he had "turned the fuel off" prior to their arrival on scene.

At 1453, the weather reported at OWD included clear skies and wind from 290 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 16 knots. The temperature was 34 degrees C, dew point was 16 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 30.00 inches of mercury.

Examination of the airplane's flight log and fuel receipts revealed that prior to the accident, the airplane was last fueled on July 12, 2016, at which time the right main and left auxiliary tanks were "topped off." The airplane had accrued an estimated 2.6 total hours of flight time (hobbs meter) since its last fuel service. Fueling instructions over the month previous to the accident specified servicing the right main and right auxiliary tanks only, or right main and left auxiliary tanks only.

The engine was removed from the airframe and subsequently placed in a test cell at the manufacturer's facility under the supervision of an NTSB investigator. The engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously without interruption at all power settings.

NTSB Probable Cause

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.

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