Micheal Joseph Hughes died in an October 2015 crash.
The parents of a young man killed in a 2015 crash are suing the flight school after an NTSB report says they sent him up in a plane with almost no gas.
Michael Hughes crashed after he took off from the Pickens County Airport last October.
A lawsuit filed this week accuses Asterix Aviation and its owners of negligence. The suit claims the instructors dispatched Hughes in a Piper Tomahawk in a "dangerous, unsafe, and unairworthy condition with virtually empty fuel tanks".
It was supposed to be Hughes's second supervised flight. He had only 13.5 hours of flight time, and less than two hours of solo flight time. Instead of a supervised flight, Hughes was sent up alone on October 3, 2015.
After a series of flight maneuvers, Hughes climbed out of a touch and go maneuver and "the engine quit due to fuel exhaustion". The suit argues Hughes was terrorized as the plane plummeted to the ground and suffered "pain and suffering" before he died.
Alan Armstrong, the attorney representing the Hughes family, said: “It is a tragic loss of human life that would never have happened if procedures every certificated flight instructor knows had been followed."
A preliminary NTSB report found there was a "negligible" about of fuel in the left tank, and "approximately 1/2 cup of fuel" on the right tank.
Attempts by 11Alive to reach those named in the lawsuit have been unsuccessful so far.
Story, video and photo gallery: http://www.11alive.com
Micheal Joseph Hughes
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Atlanta FSDO-11
NTSB Identification: ERA16FA005
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 08, 2015 in Jasper, GA
Aircraft: PIPER PA 38-112, registration: N4313E
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On October 8, 2015, about 1830 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-38-112, N4313E, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain after a loss of engine power in Jasper, Georgia. The student pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed from Pickens County Airport (JZP), Jasper, Georgia.
According to a witness, the student pilot was on his second supervised solo flight. After takeoff from JZP, he flew out to the practice area and came back to the airport about an hour later. The student pilot then performed a touch and go landing on runway 16. During the climb after the touch and go, the witness heard the engine suddenly stop running. The airplane then "sunk down" and he observed the airplane turn to the left like the airplane was going to return to the airport. The airplane then appeared to enter an aerodynamic stall and then spin to the left. It was then observed to descend rapidly while still in the spin until it was lost from view behind trees, and the sound of impact was heard.
The airplane came to rest in a small grass covered automobile parking area located approximately 1,687 feet from the departure end of runway 16. All major components of the airplane were discovered on site. The initial impact point was located on a 252 degree magnetic heading from the wreckage, 36 feet from where the airplane had come to rest. There was no discernable wreckage path, and numerous components were spread throughout the area of the accident site.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the aft fuselage was almost completely separated from the cabin, the engine had separated from the firewall, the propeller was separated from the engine, and the wings had remained attached to their fittings.
Examination of the flight control system revealed no evidence of any preimpact failures or malfunctions, and control continuity was established from the rudder, elevator, and ailerons, to the cockpit controls.
Examination of the cabin revealed that the master switch was in the "ON" position, and the magneto switch was in the "BOTH" position. The throttle was full forward, and the mixture was full rich. The electric fuel pump was in the "OFF" position.
Examination of the propeller revealed that the majority of damage to the nose spinner was concentrated on one side where it displayed crush and compression damage. Both propeller blades displayed minimal aft bending, minimal rotational scoring, and no evidence of leading edge gouging.
Examination of the engine revealed that oil was present in the rocker boxes and the galleries of the engine. Drivetrain continuity was able to be established, and the intake valves and exhaust valves on all four cylinders were functional. Thumb compression was present on all four cylinders, and internal examination utilizing a borescope revealed no anomalies. The spark plugs electrodes appeared normal and were light grey in color. Both magnetos were functional and produced spark from all towers.
Examination of the fuel system revealed that the engine driven fuel pump was functional. The carburetor was impact damaged, the float bowl had separated from the carburetor body, and the floats had been ejected from the float bowl. No evidence of fuel staining in the float bowl was present. The fuel strainer was devoid of fuel. The fuel selector valve was in the right fuel tank position.
After opening the fuel tank caps of the airplane in the position it came to rest in, with the left wing parallel to the ground, and the right wingtip about 6 feet above the ground with the right wing at an approximately 29-degree angle to the ground, a small amount of fuel approximately 1/4 inch deep was observed in the bottom of the left tank. None could be observed in the right tank.
After suspending the attached cabin section from a crane in a wings level position and draining the fuel system, examination of the contents of the left and right fuels tanks revealed that a negligible amount of fuel was present in the left fuel tank, and approximately a 1/2 cup of fuel was present in the right tank.
Examination of fuel receipts revealed that the airplane had last been refueled on October 5, 2015.
Examination of the "Time Sheet" which was recovered from the wreckage indicated that after it had been refueled, the airplane had flown on four other flights prior to the accident flight. Further examination of the time sheet also revealed that when the accident occurred, the airplane had flown 4.9 hours since the last refueling.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airplane maintenance records, the accident airplane was manufactured in 1978. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on October 3, 2015. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued approximately 3,147 total hours of operation.
According to FAA records, the student pilot, age 21, held a third class medical with student pilot certificate issued on August 24, 2015. Review of pilot records indicated that prior to the accident flight, he had accumulated 13.5 total hours of flight experience, 1.3 hours of which, were in solo flight.