Failure to position fuel selector leads to crash

This June 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: Baton Rouge, La.
Injuries: None.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was on approach to landing. While approximately five miles out on final approach, he was instructed by approach control to fly a heading of 280° for a right base for a different runway than he had initially planned. The pilot reported that as he performed his pre-landing check, he moved the fuel selector from the left tank to the right tank. The engine started losing power. The pilot then moved the fuel selector back to the left tank, but power was not restored. The pilot declared an emergency and informed the control tower that he would be landing at a nearby football field. About 500 feet short of the intended landing site, the airplane’s right wing clipped a tree. The airplane came to rest in a residential area two miles from the airport. The right wing was on top of a house and the left wing on an automobile. The wings and fuselage sustained structural damage. The engine and propeller were also damaged.

The FAA inspector who responded to the site found that the airplane’s fuel selector was not in the left indent position. Five gallons of fuel was drained out of the left fuel tank.

Probable cause: Fuel starvation as result of the pilot’s failure to properly position the fuel selector.

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