Fuel mismanagement leads to off-airport landing

This April 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Cessna 206.
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Injuries: 1 Minor.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was 15 miles north of the destination airport and had been cleared for landing when he switched from the right fuel tank to the left tank. The right tank was indicating 20 gallons. The pilot slowed the airplane down and attempted to lower the flaps. The flaps did not work, so he set up for a no-flap landing. On short final the pilot felt he was too low and added power. The engine did not respond.

He switched to the right fuel tank, but the engine still did not respond. The pilot realized that the airplane lacked enough altitude to glide to the runway and elected to land in a field. The airplane landed hard and nosed over.

A post-accident examination by an FAA inspector revealed that the left fuel tank had ample fuel, but the right fuel tank was empty. The inspector stated that the accident airplane was out of annual inspection, and the pilot’s biennial flight review was past due.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management during the landing approach, resulting in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, and a forced off-airport landing.

For more information: NTSB.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20070731X01063&key=1.

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