ATC Student Pilot Emergency Landing - Didn't Switch Fuel Tanks

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VERO BEACH, Florida - On December 2, 2019, a Piper PA28 Warrior, N558PU, was substantially damaged during a forced, student pilot emergency landing in a field. The student pilot was not injured. The pilot departed VRB earlier in the day for a solo, cross-country flight. He took off from VRB with full fuel tanks and landed uneventfully at another airport. He intended to switch fuel tanks one hour into the flight, contrary to the flight school’s policy of every 30 minutes. He forgot to switch tanks prior to landing at the other airport and did not switch tanks on the ground prior to departure. During the return flight to VRB, he again did not switch fuel tanks. While in the traffic pattern at VRB, the engine lost all power and quit. Unable to glide to runway 4, he performed a forced landing in a field to the south of the airport. During the landing roll, the airplane collided with a tree, separating the left wing from the airframe. Both wings and the fuselage were structurally damaged. The left wing fuel tank was not breached and contained no fuel. The right wing fuel tank was completely full of fuel. The cockpit fuel selector handle was found in the left tank position.The 22-year-old student pilot seemed stunned and without words.


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