National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Final Report
Date & Time:
01/27/1999, 2205 EST
Flight Conducted Under:
Part 91: General Aviation - Personal
The pilot reported a low fuel condition to the air traffic controller. The air traffic controller gave the pilot alternate airports available for landing in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. The pilot circled the area for approximately 2.5 hours. After failing to identify any of the airports, the pilot flew towards Brevard, NC. While in a descent towards the vicinity of Brevard, the airplane struck several trees and a power line before impacting the ground. The airframe and engine examinations failed to disclose any evidence of a mechanical malfunction or component failure. The post-impact examination of the engine and airframe fuel system components failed to show evidence of fuel. A small quantity of fuel was observed in the carburetor. There were no obvious indications of fuel spillage at the accident site; nor did the emergency response personnel report the odor of fuel upon their arrival at the accident site.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's inadequate inflight planning that resulted in fuel exhaustion and the subsequent loss of engine power.
Occurrence #1: LOSS OF ENGINE POWER(TOTAL) - NONMECHANICAL
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On January 27, 1999, about 2205 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, N1875H, collided with trees while maneuvering for a forced landing in Brevard, North Carolina. The airplane was operated by the owner/private pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The pilot and sole occupant received fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. There were no injuries reported on the ground. The flight originated from Andrews-Murphy Airport in Andrews, North Carolina, at an undetermined time.
At about 1930, according to Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), radio and radar contact was established with the flight. At that time, the pilot reported a low fuel condition (see attached ATC controllers' statements, and chronological summary of flight). The pilot was given alternate airports in the vicinity for an emergency landing, however, the pilot continued to circle for approximately 2.5 hours. Local police reported that, in an effort to assist the distressed airplane, airport lights in the vicinity of the circling airplane were turned on by emergency personnel. Another airplane, based in the local area, was used to help locate the distressed airplane.
After failing to identify any of the airports, the pilot elected to fly towards Brevard, NC. While in a descent towards Brevard, the airplane struck several trees and a power line before impacting the ground. After impact with the ground parts of the airplane collided with a mini-van parked on the street, and the propeller assembly separated from the engine assembly coming to rest in a house 45 feet beyond the mini-van.
Information on the pilot can be obtained in this report under the heading of "First Pilot Information." A toxicological analysis was performed on the pilot, but due to the lack of specimens a carbon monoxide and a cyanide test could not be performed. A test for ethanol and drugs was performed and nothing was detected. In January 1996, the pilot surrendered his instrument rating following a reexamination for his instrument rating.
Information on this airplane can be located in the section of this report under the heading of "Aircraft Information."
Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Additional weather data is recorded under the "Weather Information" data field of the Factual Report on page 3. A review of preflight weather records failed to disclose that the pilot had requested and received a weather briefing before the initial departure. The field elevation at the Asheville Airport is 2165 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to emergency personnel, the fuselage rested inverted at the accident site when they arrived. Examination of the accident site disclosed that the airplane and freshly broken tree debris were scattered over an area 370 feet long and 50 feet wide. The wreckage path was orientated on a southeasterly heading. Examination of the accident site also revealed that both wings were torn from the airframe, the vertical stabilizer was crushed, and the empennage was bent. The airplane propeller assembly was found in the living room of a single family dwelling 30 feet southeast of the main wreckage. Family members were in another location of the house when the accident occurred.
The airplane was subsequently removed from the accident site for further examination. During the follow-up examination the airframe and sub-systems under went an extensive inspection. Details of the examination are included in the attached airframe and engine examination. The airframe and engine examination failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or component failure. The post-impact examination of the engine and airframe fuel system components failed to show evidence of fuel. A small quantity of fuel was observed in the carburetor. There were no obvious indications of fuel spillage at the accident site; nor did the emergency response personnel report the odor of fuel upon their arrival at the accident site.
Examination of the fuel tanks revealed that, there was no damage to either fuel tank and there was a slight fuel odor in each tank. During the examination of the engine and relevant accessories, no usable fuel present in the engine, electric fuel pump, carburetor, or fuel lines leading to the engine. The fuel quantity on board the airplane at takeoff was not determined.
Examination of the airframe and the engine assemblies failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or a component failure.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The post mortem examination on the pilot was performed by Dr. Robert L. Thompson at the Office of The Chief Medical Examiner, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on January 29, 1999. The toxicological examinations were negative for alcohol and drugs.
The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. Harry Brooks of Carlson /Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia.
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Seatbelt, Shoulder harness
Second Pilot Present:
Class 3 Valid Medical--w/ waivers/lim.
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
2841 hours (Total, all aircraft)
Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Year of Manufacture:
Landing Gear Type:
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Airframe Total Time:
Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
WILLIAM R. DARDEN
WILLIAM R. DARDEN
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
AVL, 2140 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
18 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Clear / 0 ft agl
None / 0 ft agl
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
30 inches Hg
7°C / 4°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
ANDREWS, NC (6A3)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Type of Clearance:
Type of Airspace:
Wreckage and Impact Information
Investigator In Charge (IIC):
Additional Participating Persons:
BOB SCHILLING; CHARLOTTE, NC
DAVE ANDERSON; CHARLOTTE, NC
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