Sunday, February 02, 2020

Fuel Starvation: Piper PA-28-181 Archer II, N8078X; accident occurred October 10, 2019 near Dayton Wright Brothers Airport (KMGY), Montgomery County, Ohio

View of damage to the left wing. 
Federal Aviation Administration

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Dayton, OH
Accident Number: GAA20CA017
Date & Time: 10/10/2019, 1600 EDT
Registration: N8078X
Aircraft: Piper PA28
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional

According to the instrument rated private pilot, she was working toward a commercial certificate, conducting an instrument cross-country flight in VFR conditions with a safety pilot. During the final approach the airplane's altitude was low and she added power by moving the throttle but "nothing happened."

The safety pilot in the right seat took the controls and made a forced landing on a highway. During the landing the airplane struck a vehicle.

The private pilot and the safety pilot reported that they were not sure why the engine lost power.

The private pilot reported that the accident flight was the second and return leg of the IFR cross-country flight.

Additionally, the private pilot reported that the airplane had been "topped off" prior to the flight, which was about 181 nautical miles to their destination. During preflight for the return leg, she affirmed that she visually checked the fuel quantity in each tank and, "it was at the tabs". She completed a fuel sample and they departed for the return flight.

According to the FAA Inspector that performed the post-accident airplane examination, during the examination, he observed that the fuel tank selector was set to the left tank. The fuel pump and carburetor float bowl had less than an ounce of fuel in each. The left wing tank did not contain any usable fuel and there was no sign of fuel on the ground post impact. The right tank contained about 12 gallons of fuel.

According to the manufacturer's pilot operator handbook, per Chapter 3, the first step of the Engine Power Loss In Flight emergency procedure state:

Fuel Selector…………………switch to tank containing fuel

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing spar. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 27, Female
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 02/14/2018
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 09/05/2019
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 158 hours (Total, all aircraft), 158 hours (Total, this make and model), 69 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 33 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 14 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Flight Instructor Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 26, Female
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/01/2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N8078X
Model/Series: PA28 181
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1979
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate:Normal 
Serial Number: 28-8090075
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2550 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
Engine Model/Series: O-360
Registered Owner: Aviation Sales Inc
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: Aviation Sales Inc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Pilot School (141)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMGY, 962 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2153 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 349°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 160°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Coldwater, MI (OBE)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: Dayton, OH (MGY)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1430 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Dayton-Wright Brothers (MGY)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 956 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 20
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5000 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 39.588889, -84.224722 (est)


  1. Running out of gas. How embarrassing. How dangerous and destructive. At least no one got hurt. The airplane sure did.

    1. They did not run out of fuel, just forgot to switch tanks!! Idiotic error.

  2. No use of wood dowel dip check method for determine remaining fuel quantity at lunch stop, cuz "looked like full to tabs". Landed using tank they burned from first, making it the one that would have smallest residual at landing doing their 30 minute swaps.
    From the POH:
    "It is recommended that one tank be used for one hour after takeoff, then the other tank be used for two hours; then return to the first tank, which will have approximately one and one half hours of fuel remaining if the tanks were full at takeoff."

    Landing instructions include electric fuel pump ON. The fuel pressure gauge must have been inoperative, same as the inoperative or malfunctioning tank level gauges:

    "If signs of fuel starvation should occur at any time during flight, fuel exhaustion should be suspected: at which time the fuel selector should be immediately positioned to the other tank and the electric fuel pump switched to the "ON" position."

    Perhaps reading the POH was "TL:DR", as some people now like to say. If properly trained, the 26 year old instructor should have known how and when to read a fuel pressure gauge. The gauge will have very noticeable down and up cycling as the electric pump passes into chugging air. The clearly visible flicking needle on the fuel pressure gauge will show itself for about a full minute before power loss. They both played with the throttle but neither checked for zero fuel pressure on the gauge.

    Crashed on incorrect fuel quantity management. Enough altitude remained to switch tanks and recover from failure to scan panel and spot flicking fuel pressure needle before exhaustion during approach. Even took time to change xponder code but not to check fuel pressure and switch tanks. Scanning gauges is "TL:DR" too?

  3. If your engine just up and quits in the air with little or no warning, first thing to do is to switch tanks, then check that your mags are on .... just sayin'

  4. Injector cycle terminating is on normal finished in 1.5 to 5 fuel injector cleaner