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N721SC accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 41.158056°N, 117.672500°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 Winnemucca, NV
40.972958°N, 117.735685°W
13.2 miles away
Tail number N721SC
Accident date 23 Jul 2003
Aircraft type Smith Miniplane
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On July 23, 2003, at 2040 Pacific daylight time, an experimental Smith Miniplane, N721SC, lost engine power during cruise and collided with terrain 14 miles north-northeast of Winnemucca, Nevada. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured: the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that departed Owyhee, Nevada, at an undetermined time. No flight plan had been filed. The flight was scheduled to terminate at the Winnemucca Municipal Airport (WMC).

The Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the pilot about 1700 the day of the accident. The pilot had been involved in an incident about 1600. The pilot reported that he departed from Hayward, California, en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with various refueling stops planned along the way. After the second stop to refuel the airplane, the pilot flew an additional two hours, at which point he became disoriented and lost in the area of Owyhee. He noted that the airplane was low on fuel and decided to land on a road near a gas station. He taxied the airplane to a gas station and purchased unleaded auto fuel. While he was there, locals told him to be careful of the low wires in the area when he took off.

During the takeoff roll, the airplane did not develop lift. The pilot felt it was due to the high temperature. Because he was concerned about the low wires, he aborted the takeoff. The right wing collided with a reflector sign, which resulted in a dent approximately 8 inches inboard from the wing tip. He stated that he would place duct tape on the dent and fly it home. The IIC informed the pilot that it was his responsibility to retrieve his airplane, and that she could not give him permission to fly his airplane. The pilot indicated that he understood.

At 2125, the IIC was notified that the pilot had been involved in another accident near WMC.

In the pilot's written statement, he reported that while flying back to WMC he again became disoriented and got lost. He located highway 95 and followed it toward WMC. About 14 miles from the airport, the airplane ran out of gas. He attempted an emergency landing on the highway. During the descent he maintained a nose-low attitude to "gain" airspeed. He stated that the ground was approaching quickly. As a result, he pulled "up on the nose." That was the last thing he remembered.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed the pilot. After repairing the wing tip with duct tape, he flew the airplane to Owyhee Airport (10U). He then took a dead reckoning wet compass heading for WMC. During the flight the pilot encountered light rain. Prior to reaching WMC he became disoriented and got lost. Once he figured out where he was, the engine quit. He made an emergency landing in an open dirt area near the highway. The pilot stated that when he pushed the nose over to gain airspeed the airplane was at a 45-degree nose down angle to the terrain. When he saw the ground coming up at him, he pulled the nose back, and the airplane "hit hard." The pilot stated that there were no mechanical discrepancies with the airplane.

A responding deputy from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department stated that the surface winds were about 30 to 40 mph when he arrived on scene. He also stated that visibility was poor, and it was raining.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to refuel the airplane prior to fuel exhaustion, which resulted in a loss of engine power during cruise flight, and subsequent in-flight collision with terrain. A factor associated with the accident is the night light conditions.

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