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N5058P accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 39.683333°N, 118.748611°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 Fallon, NV
39.473529°N, 118.777374°W
14.6 miles away
Tail number N5058P
Accident date 10 Jun 2003
Aircraft type Piper PA-24-250
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 10, 2003, about 0930 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-24-250, N5058P, lost engine power during cruise and collided with obstacles during a forced landing on a highway near Fallon, Nevada. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot was not injured; however, the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight departed Fallon Municipal Airport (FLX), Fallon, at 0815 for a flight to Derby Field (LOL), Lovelock, Nevada, where he completed a touch-and-go. The flight was returning to Fallon when the accident occurred. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The primary wreckage was at 39 degrees 41 minutes north latitude and 118 degrees 44 minutes west longitude.

Prior to departure, the pilot had visually looked the airplane's fuel tanks, but did not use a dipstick or other means to quantify the amount of fuel on board. He then set the fuel selector to the right tank estimating it to be the fullest one at approximately ¾ capacity. Not wanting to wait for fuel, the pilot departed the airport and placed the fuel selector on the right tank for the duration of the flight until the engine failure.

Upon returning from Lovelock, the airplane experienced a power failure during cruise at 5,500 feet. During the descent onto a highway, the pilot attempted to restart the engine by switching tanks, checking the magneto settings, and switching on the carburetor heat. The fuel selector, which had been set on the right tank for the entire flight, was switched to the left tank. Following this, the engine "gained rpm's but then quit again." The pilot then switched the selector back to the right tank, which still indicated fuel present. During the following landing sequence, the pilot maneuvered the airplane onto the highway, but was forced to swerve into a ditch to avoid an oncoming car. The wing then impacted several sign posts before the airplane came to rest in a ditch.

Following the accident, an airplane mechanic checked the wing tanks and found the right one "completely dry." The left one had ½ to 1 inch of fuel remaining. A post accident fuel boost pump check produced fuel from the left tank. A later refueling and run-up did not reveal any discrepancies with either the engine, the engine's fuel flow, or the engine driven and electrical fuel pumps.

In a written statement, the pilot said that the accident could have been prevented by "not relying on the fuel gage" and by sticking the tanks "with a paint stick or something appropriate" instead of relying on a visual inspection to accurately determine the fuel quantity in the tanks.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadequate preflight and his mismanagement of the fuel supply by his failure to switch fuel tanks.

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