NTSB: State trooper plane ran out of fuel

Posted: Friday, June 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection Trooper apparently ran out of gas before his plane crashed a year ago.

Trooper James Moen was killed in the crash June 25,2000.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board said Moen was using only one fuel tank on the Super Cub and ran out of fuel, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Moen was not flying his regular plane and wasn't familiar with the different fuel system on the substitute craft, the report states.

Moen, who was stationed in McGrath, was assigned a Piper Super Cub with wheels but had to fly another Super Cub, this one with floats, for a fishing patrol around Iliamna.

The floatplane, unlike Moen's assigned plane, had a newer, safer fuel system that allows a pilot to fly using both wing-mounted fuel tanks. Planes with the old system can be flown using only one tank at a time.

The day of the crash, Moen and a second trooper flew in separate planes from Igiugig to a remote lake about 45 miles northwest of Iliamna. The second trooper wanted to show Moen the location of the cabin where he would be staying during his patrol.

Before departing, Moen told the other trooper he was unsure if his plane should be operated with the fuel selector valve in the ''both'' position, or the ''left'' or ''right'' positions.

The second trooper, who is not identified, ''reported that since his airplane was equipped with the standard Piper fuel system as well, he was also unsure as to the operation of the accident airplane's fuel system,'' according to the report.

The fuel selector valve, however, had a placard on it stating, ''Take off and landing on both only.'' That information was also contained in the plane's operator's manual on board.

Moen's plane crashed into the tundra about one-quarter mile from the lake.

When an NTSB investigator examined the wreckage, he found the fuel selector switch set on ''left.''

Maj. James Cockrell, Fish and Wildlife Protection deputy director, said Moen's death was traumatic for the department. Moen had served with the troopers since 1983. He left a wife and four children.

Shortly after the crash, troopers hired an independent aviation safety expert to review their operations.

''We've adopted some policies and procedures he recommended to ensure we're not faced with this again,'' Cockrell said.

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