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Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
Narrative: A Piper PA-31 crashed less than 5 km from the Limoges-Bellegarde Airport in France. Both occupants of the aircraft were seriously injured. The aircraft had left Limoges at 10:30, to carry out mapping work. The flight was originally scheduled to last four hours. The pilot reportedly attempted an emergency landing due to a fuel shortage. The plane then struck the treetops lining the field. The initialy flight have a duration of 4 hours but in fact the flight lasted 5 hours. The pilot was the director of the company.
INFORMATION AND CONCLUSION: On the flight to Limoges Bellegarde aerodrome, the aircraft ran out of fuel. The fuel exhaustion occurred after approximately 05:15 hours of flight. During the forced landing, the aircraft collided with the trees and then with the ground. The pilot and the operator seated in the rear seat were seriously injured. When the fuel ran out, the pilot carried out emergency procedures and turned right. Cross-feeding of the tanks was found in the "ON" position. The pilot was able to position it this way either to prevent the fuel exhaustion or during the emergency actions taken when the fuel exhaustion occurred. The altitude of the aerodrome is 1300 ft. Its altitude at the time of the fuel failure was 1460 ft, which did not allow it to reach the aerodrome safely. The choice of right turn can be explained by the pilot's attempt to reach flat fields about 700 m east of the accident site. Contributing to the fuel starvation may have been the pilot's attempt to reach the flat fields: - Exceeding the range indicated at startup may be explained by the habit of using the PA23, which has a greater range. - The priority of optimising the quantity of aerial shots by using all the capacity of the storage hard disks before returning to the aerodrome, indicated during the flight preparation with the operator. - Although the pilot indicated that he was not using it, the clock, which stopped at 1210, one hour before the accident, may have given him a wrong indication and confirmed the remaining autonomy. This may have contributed to the operator's serious injuries: - Different operator placement instructions between the operations manual and the F-HGPS manual, the latter recommending the use of seats to the right or behind the pilot rather than near the equipment installed on board the aircraft. - The carry-on and non-securing of the lift table during a mission flight.