Friday, February 22, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Piper PA-46-310P Malibu, N148ME, accident occurred May 29, 2018 near Ernest A. Love Field (KPRC), Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Prescott, Arizona

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Prescott, AZ
Accident Number: GAA18CA312
Date & Time: 05/29/2018, 2115 MST
Registration: N148ME
Aircraft: PIPER PA 46
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


According to the pilot, about 15 minutes before reaching the destination airport during descent, the engine lost power. The pilot switched fuel tanks, and the engine power was momentarily restored, but the engine stopped producing power even though he thought it "was still running all the way to impact." The pilot conducted a forced landed on a highway at night, and the right wing struck an object and separated from the airplane. The airplane came to rest inverted.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector (ASI) that performed the postaccident airplane examination, the fuel lines to the fuel manifold were dry, and the fuel manifold valves were dry. He reported that the fuel strainer, the diaphragm, and the fuel filter in the duel manifold were unremarkable. Fuel was found in the gascolator.

The FAA ASI reported that, during his interview with the pilot, "the pilot changed his story from fuel exhaustion, to fuel contamination." The inspector reported that there were no signs of fuel contamination during the examination of the fuel system.

According to the fixed-base operator (FBO) at the departure airport, the pilot requested 20 gallons of fuel. He then canceled his fuel request and walked out of the FBO. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper fuel planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and the subsequent total loss of engine power.


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Loss of engine power (total)
Attempted remediation/recovery

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Part(s) separation from AC
Roll over

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Private
Age: 34, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/05/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/27/2018
Flight Time: (Estimated) 3100 hours (Total, all aircraft), 3 hours (Total, this make and model), 2000 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 60 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 22 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N148ME
Model/Series: PA 46
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1986
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 46-8608009
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4118 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: TSIO-520
Rated Power: 0 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPRC, 5052 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0453 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 341°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / -2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: SANTA ANA, CA (SNA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: PRESCOTT, AZ (PRC)
Type of Clearance: IFR; VFR; VFR on top
Departure Time: 1940 PDT
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Airport: Ernest A Love Field (PRC)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt; Concrete
Airport Elevation: 5045 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude: 34.340556, -112.294167 (est)

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