Fuel exhaustion Accident Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee N7160Z, Tuesday 6 January 2009
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Date:Tuesday 6 January 2009
Type:Silhouette image of generic PA25 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee
Owner/operator:Meeks Aerial Advertising LLC
Registration: N7160Z
MSN: 25-3017
Year of manufacture:1964
Engine model:Lycoming O-540
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Pensacola, FL -   United States of America
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Banner and glider towing
Departure airport:Pensacola, FL (82J)
Destination airport:Pensacola, FL (82J)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
The pilot had been flying for about 20 to 30 minutes, practicing banner tow pick-up and using the local left-hand traffic pattern prior to the accident. One witness noted the airplane in a closer than normal traffic pattern as it was turning to the runway and close in to his house. The engine made a "couple of popping sounds and went silent" about 300 feet above ground level. The airplane was then observed in a left bank and 45-degree nose down attitude as it descended into terrain. All other witnesses reported that the engine was not running at the time of the accident. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the fuel system had not been compromised. No fuel could be seen in the fuel tank. A fuel sample was taken from the lower firewall fuel drain and was found to be consistent with the odor and color of 100 low lead aviation fuel. Removal and examination of the carburetor fuel bowl found approximately 8 ounces of fuel remaining. The date of the airplane’s last fueling and the hours of operation since that fueling could not be determined. Postmortem toxicology testing performed on specimens from the pilot was consistent with recent ingestion of a night-time multisymptom cold reliever containing a sedating antihistamine. The pilot's weight may have placed him at risk for obstructive sleep apnea and associated daytime fatigue. The pilot may have been impaired by fatigue from recent use of a sedating antihistamine, from poor sleep due to cold symptoms, and/or from the effects of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea; however, the role of any such impairment in the accident could not be definitively determined.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed following a total loss of engine power during a low-level approach, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was fuel exhaustion due to the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: ERA09LA131
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 5 months
Download report: Final report





Photo: FAA

Photo: FAA

Revision history:

12-Jan-2009 06:32 CJOKER Updated
12-Jan-2009 06:36 harro Updated
16-Apr-2010 11:33 harro Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
16-Apr-2010 11:33 harro Updated
21-Dec-2016 19:25 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
01-Dec-2017 11:40 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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