Inadequate planning leads to off-airport landing

This January 2010 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: Maule M-4-220C. Injuries: None. Location: Pearsall, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was on a night cross-country flight when he experienced problems with the airplane’s GPS. He landed, recharged the GPS battery, and took off again. The GPS malfunctioned again, so he contacted ATC and received vectors to his destination airport. He made it to the vicinity of the destination airport, but couldn’t find it in the dark because he couldn’t see the rotating beacon or activate the airport’s runway lights.

He then selected an alternate airport 45 miles away. The airplane did not have sufficient fuel to reach the alternate airport and the engine lost power en route. He made a forced landing, during which the main landing gear collapsed.

A review of flight planning publications for the destination airport revealed that the rotating beacon was listed as out of service and that a frequency other than the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency was needed to activate the runway lights. In addition, Federal Aviation Regulations require a pilot flying at night to have enough fuel to arrive at the intended destination, plus an additional 45 minutes worth of fuel.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10CA087

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