Cessna loses power during approach

 This February 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: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Sparks, Nev. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, he was descending to the airport with the fuel selector on the right tank when the engine lost power. He switched the fuel selector to the left tank, then to the “both” position. The propeller continued to windmill. The airplane lacked sufficient altitude to glide to the runway, so the pilot made a forced landing on an interstate. During the landing, the airplane touched down hard and the tailwheel separated from its mounting point and damaged the rudder.

The pilot told investigators that usually when the airplane is in a descent he positions the fuel selector on the “both” setting. Additionally, the pilot reported that he may have encountered carburetor icing conditions and he did not immediately apply carburetor heat. According to the FAA’s carburetor icing chart, icing conditions existed at glide and cruise power. Seven gallons of fuel were found in the airplane’s fuel tanks.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s failure to select the correct fuel selector position.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10CA144



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  1. Mark C says

     Very interesting airplane, too bad to bend it up. According to the NTSB record it’s a 172 with a tailwheel and a Franklin 220hp conversion. That’s my kind of C172.

  2. Douglas W. Rodrigues says

     I saw the plane on the freeway with it’s wings being removed.  It was a tail dragger conversion with the Lyc O-360 conversion and constant speed prop, with fiberglass blisters on the cowl.  The guy was flying back from Mexico.  He was very close to the airport and descending to traffic pattern altitude which is why he didn’t have a lot of altitude.  Also, landing on the freeway was the best option he had for a safe landing in that area.  I thought that he did a pretty good job of it.

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