Sunday, February 24, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Piper J3C-65 Cub Special, N46286; accident occurred August 20, 2017 near Paramount Airfield (JY04), Green Creek, Cape May County, New Jersey

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Green Creek, NJ
Accident Number: ERA17LA281
Date & Time: 08/20/2017, 1345 EDT
Registration: N46286
Aircraft: PIPER J3C
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Banner Tow 


The commercial pilot stated that he filled the airplane's fuel tanks the day before the accident; he departed on the banner tow flight with an estimated 4.8 hours of fuel endurance. After about 4 hours of flight, which included 6 full-power climbs with banners, the engine lost total power. During the subsequent forced landing, the pilot switched from the left fuel tank to the right fuel tank and attempted to restart the engine to no avail. The airplane landed in a marsh, which resulted in substantial damage to the airframe and firewall. During postaccident examination of the airplane, about 1 gallon of fuel was recovered from the right fuel tank, while no fuel was recovered from the left fuel tank. It is likely that the pilot exhausted the fuel supply in the left fuel tank, which resulted in the total loss of engine power.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's exhaustion of the fuel supply in the selected tank.


Fuel - Fluid management (Cause)

Personnel issues
Use of equip/system - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Wet/muddy terrain - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information 

On August 20, 2017, about 1345 eastern daylight time, a Piper J3C-65, N46286, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power on approach to Paramount Air Strip (JY04), Green Creek, New Jersey. The commercial pilot sustained a minor injury. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the banner-tow flight, which departed JY04 about 0945, and was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the pilot's written statement and company records, he picked up his first banner at 0948, and subsequently dropped and picked up 5 more banners. About 1340, he dropped the 6th banner, retracted the tow boom, and entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for landing at JY04. At the point where the airplane entered the downwind leg, the engine stopped producing power. The pilot turned the airplane away from a line of trees in the airplane's path, and performed a forced landing to a marsh which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage. In a telephone interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector, the pilot reported that he switched from the left fuel tank to the right fuel tank and attempted an engine restart during the forced landing, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

The pilot reported that he filled the fuel tanks on the day prior to the accident, and that the airplane's average fuel consumption rate was 7.2-7.4 gallons per hour. He reported to the inspector that he "didn't understand" how the airplane ran out of fuel.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued October 4, 2016. His records revealed an estimated 615 total hours of flight experience of which 507 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The one-place, high-wing airplane was manufactured in 1942 and powered by a Lycoming O-290D2, 135-horsepower engine. It was originally configured with a 12-gallon fuel capacity but was subsequently modified with a 36-gallon fuel system. The most recent annual inspection was completed on August 9, 2016 at 11,517 total aircraft hours.

At 1355, the weather recorded at Cape May County Airport (WWD) 3 miles south of JY04, included clear skies, wind from 290° at 9 knots, and visibility 10 statute miles. The temperature was 26°C, and the dew point was 18°C. The altimeter setting was 30.12 inches of mercury.

The airplane was examined at the scene by an FAA aviation safety inspector. Examination revealed the firewall and the tubular structure of the fuselage were substantially damaged. An FAA inspector confirmed flight control continuity, and when the fuel tanks were drained, he recovered "a little over a gallon out of the right tank, and nothing out of the left."

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern downwind
Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Loss of engine power (total)

Emergency descent
Off-field or emergency landing

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 20, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/04/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  615 hours (Total, all aircraft), 507 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N46286
Model/Series: J3C 65
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1942
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: G-95
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/09/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 11517 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: O-290D2
Rated Power: 135 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: WWD, 21 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1755 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 180°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 9 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 290°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.12 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 18°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Green Creek, NJ (JY04)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Green Creek, NJ (JYO4)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0948 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Paramount (JYO4)
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 8 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 14
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2000 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  39.065000, -74.909722 (est)

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