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During the night cross-country flight, the Piper PA-28-181 had been flying for four hours, 21 minutes and was about six miles from the destination airport when the pilot reported a fuel emergency to air traffic control.
He stated that he was going to attempt to land on a highway, however, the plane hit 160-foot power lines that crossed the highway near Safety Harbor, Fla., killing two people on board and seriously injuring another.Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions of the airframe or engine, and only a few ounces of fuel were recovered from the wreckage.
The airplane held 48 usable gallons of fuel and consumed about 10.5 gallons per hour, resulting in an expected endurance of four hours, 35 minutes, which does not account for fuel used during taxi, takeoff, and climb.
The pilot’s toxicology results were positive for cocaine, and impairment from cocaine likely affected his preflight fuel planning abilities and en route fuel management.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s inadequate fuel planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment due to cocaine use.