Thursday, June 10, 2021

Fuel Starvation: Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N4147J; accident occurred June 09, 2021 near Denton Enterprise Airport (KDTO), Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Denton, Texas
Accident Number: CEN21LA260
Date and Time: June 9, 2021, 21:00 Local 
Registration: N4147J
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation 
Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that the student pilot was taking off following a touch and go landing and was about 5 seconds into the climb when the engine lost all power. The flight instructor took control of the airplane and attempted to restart the engine to no avail. He declared an emergency and chose to conduct a forced landing to an upsloping field. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and left horizontal stabilizer. The fuel tanks were intact. A Federal Aviation Inspector, who conducted a postaccident examination of the airplane at the scene, reported that the left fuel tank was completely empty, and the 25-gallon capacity right fuel tank was found about ½ full. The fuel selector was in the “Off” position. No other preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane were found that would have precluded normal operation. The flight instructor reported that they had purchased 20 gallons of fuel prior to the flight. They flew the airplane to another airport where they did a touch-an-go-landing, before flying back to their home airport where they did another touch and go landing. It was during the climb following that touch and go landing when the engine lost all power. The flight instructor could not recall which fuel tank was selected at the time of the power loss. Given this information, it is likely that the left fuel tank was selected and was exhausted of fuel during the takeoff, which resulted in the total loss of engine power and subsequent forced landing.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The flight instructor and student pilot’s failure to properly manage the airplane’s available fuel resulting in fuel starvation. 


Personnel issues Use of equip/system - Instructor/check pilot
Personnel issues Use of equip/system - Student/instructed pilot
Aircraft Fuel - Fluid management
Environmental issues Sloped/uneven terrain - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Initial climb Fuel starvation (Defining event)
Landing-flare/touchdown Off-field or emergency landing

Flight instructor Information

Certificate: Commercial; Flight instructor; Private
Age: 28, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: Lap only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: April 26, 2021
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: March 11, 2021
Flight Time: 499 hours (Total, all aircraft), 100 hours (Total, this make and model), 100 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 30 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Student pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 20, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None 
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 31, 2021
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 50 hours (Total, all aircraft), 10 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N4147J
Model/Series: PA-28-140 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966 
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 28-22471
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: March 1, 2021 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2000 Hrs at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: O-320
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 160 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KDTO,642 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 20:53 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 1°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 150°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / 23°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Denton, TX
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Denton, TX 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 
Type of Airspace: Class E

Airport Information

Airport: Denton Enterprise Airport DTO 
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 643 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.201961,-97.199097

1 comment:

  1. Dang. Brand new owner. Just registered with the FAA 06/03/2021. Glad no injuries.