Monday, March 18, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N3214P, accident occurred November 05, 2018 near Clovis Municipal Airport (KCVN), Texico, Curry County, New Mexico

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Texico, NM
Accident Number: GAA19CA053
Date & Time: 11/05/2018, 1655 MST
Registration: N3214P
Aircraft: Piper PA24
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 2 Minor, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The pilot reported that, the day before the accident flight, he had fully refueled the airplane’s fuel tanks (60 gallons of fuel), conducted a run-up of the engine, and conducted a local flight around the pattern to troubleshoot an electrical issue that was later resolved.

The pilot reported that, on the day of the accident, during the preflight inspection for the cross-country flight, the airplane was only "two gallons shy of full." About 2.5 hours into the flight, after switching the fuel tanks multiple times en route, he switched to the left main fuel tank to prepare for landing. He added that, about 4 miles south of the destination airport, the engine lost power, the airplane was "too low," and he set up to land on a nearby road. The airplane landed with the gear retracted and struck multiple signs before coming to rest.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing, fuselage, and empennage.

During a postaccident examination by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector, both fuel tanks were found empty, and no evidence of fuel leakage was found at the accident site.  

During a telephone conversation, the pilot reported that the total flight time the day of the accident was about 3.1 hours and that he was not aware of any preaccident mechanical failures. He estimated that the fuel burn was about 14 gallons per hour and that, during the accident flight, there was about a 17-knot headwind.

The Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the airplane stated that, while at 75% power, the airplane has about 3.7 hours of fuel endurance. Given the evidence, it is likely that the pilot did not ensure that there was adequate fuel onboard for the accident flight, which led to fuel exhaustion and a 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 improper preflight fuel planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a total loss of engine power. 


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Sign/marker - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

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

Off-field or emergency landing
Landing gear not configured
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 25, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 06/28/2018
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/28/2018
Flight Time:  153 hours (Total, all aircraft), 29 hours (Total, this make and model), 73 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 28 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 11 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 4 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N3214P
Model/Series: PA24 250
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1958
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 24-292
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/01/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2800 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3433.83 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91A installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540-A1A5
Registered Owner: Reed Aviation, LLC
Rated Power: 250 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCVN, 4216 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2356 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 325°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 9 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 280°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.84 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / -3°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Austin, TX (EDC)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Texico, NM (CVN)
Type of Clearance: VFR; VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1515 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 4215 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 30
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5697 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing; Full Stop; Straight-in 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor, 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 34.388611, -103.045000 (est)

1 comment:

  1. I rarely ever takeoff with the tanks not topped off. An old pilot once told me, "the only time you can ever have too much fuel is if you're on fire". It cracks me up when I read of a pilot that crashes a perfectly good plane due to fuel exhaustion only because he tried stretching it to an airport to save $.30/gal on fuel!