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Fuel problem possible in fatal plane crash

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 3, 2009

A small plane that crashed in Iowa last summer, killing three local men, was low on fuel, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.


The plane crashed June 23 in an Iowa cornfield, killing Francis Allegretti of Cambridge, Thomas Boos of Fort Atkinson and Malcolm McMillan of Milton.


The men were flying from Fort Atkinson to South Dakota on a hunting trip.


Federal investigators report finding only 1 cup of fuel from the tank under the left wing and 2 1/2 cups from the tank under the right wing.


The report gives many details relating to the plane's fuel status but draws no conclusions about the cause of the crash.


The pilot and passengers refueled the single-engine Piper with 12 gallons of fuel at the Fort Atkinson airport, according to the report, but the amount of fuel on board at the time of departure could not be determined.


A witness told investigators that one of the men mentioned that they planned a fuel stop on their way to their final destination.


Witnesses near the accident site described the plane flying at a low altitude and the engine "coughing, sputtering, and missing" before the engine quit, restarted and quit again.


"Witnesses and rescue personnel who responded to the accident reported no smell or evidence of fuel at the accident site," the report states. No fuel was found in the carburetor.


Upon reaching the ground, the plane traveled through a field for about 100 feet before it hit a ditch near a road and came to rest "inverted."


The corn ranged in height from 2 feet to 3 feet, the report states, but there was no evidence of corn being cut by a propeller.


The plane's engine underwent a 100-hour inspection April 16, when it had had a total time of 40 hours since major overhaul, the report states.


The weather at the time as reported by witnesses was clear skies with winds light and variable.


Toxicological tests for the pilot were negative.



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