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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