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N5031T accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 38.066667°N, 114.566667°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Pioche, NV
37.929685°N, 114.452214°W
11.3 miles away
Tail number N5031T
Accident date 25 Sep 2005
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-140
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 25, 2005, at 2054 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a single engine Piper PA-28-140, N5031T, lost engine power and made a forced landing in the mountains of the Wilson Creek area, near Pioche, Nevada. The pilot operated the rental airplane from Benson Aviation under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, as a personal round robin cross-country flight. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed from Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC), Cedar City, Utah, at 1540 PDT (1640 mountain standard time), made a landing at Elko Regional Airport (EKO), Elko, Nevada, and was returning to CDC when the accident occurred.

According to the pilot, he fueled the airplane with 48 gallons of fuel and departed CDC with full tanks. He arrived at EKO about 1940, did a touch-and-go landing and takeoff, and then departed for the return trip to CDC. His route of flight took him over Ely Airport (Yelland Field - ELY), Ely, Nevada, where he noted the fuel tanks were running low. He made three unsuccessful attempts to activate the runway lights at ELY so that he could refuel the airplane. When he was unable to activate the runway lights, he decided to continue the flight to CDC.

The pilot stated that as he got closer to Wilson Creek, about 90 nautical miles from ELY, he contacted Salt Lake Center (SLC). He was worried because it took him longer than expected to get to the Wilson Creek VOR (Very High Frequency Omni-Range), and he noticed that one fuel tank indicated less than 5 gallons, and the other fuel tank was indicating 5 gallons. The pilot communicated his low fuel situation to the SLC controller, who then vectored the pilot south towards Lincoln County Airport (1L1), Panaca, Nevada.

The pilot reported that one of the fuel tanks ran dry, which he reported to SLC. The SLC controller told him that a highway was directly underneath the pilot's location; however, the pilot indicated that it was very dark and he didn't see anything. The controller asked the pilot if he was able to climb, to which the pilot replied negatively. At that point, the SLC controller instructed the pilot to turn to a heading of 180 degrees towards Lincoln County Airport. While the pilot was complying with the heading instructions he simultaneously saw and crashed into a mountain.

The pilot hiked down from the mountain, in about 4 hours, and was picked up by a passerby on a road who took him to the hospital.

According to the airplane manufacturer, the accident airplane holds a total fuel capacity of 50 gallons, of which 2 gallons (1 gallon each side) is unusable for flight. The airplane's fuel burn is about 10 gallons of fuel an hour, which provides approximately 4 hours of flight time.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) estimated that the total nautical miles (nm) flown was 416 nm. Total flight time was 5 hours. Distances for each leg of the flight was estimated to be:

CDC to EKO - 225 nm

EKO to ELY - 101 nm

ELY to the accident site - 90 nm

NTSB Probable Cause

controlled flight into mountainous terrain due to the pilot's inadequate preflight planning and preparation and his inadequate in-flight decisions, which created a low fuel state emergency situation that led directly to the CFIT during flight assist efforts by controllers.

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