Pilot confused by fuel selector

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: Beech Musketeer. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Winter Haven, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot, who had logged more than 468 hours, had not logged any flight time between Nov. 22, 2003, and Oct. 4, 2008. He had logged 5.7 hours in the Musketeer between Dec. 6, 2009, and Dec. 16, 2009.

During the initial climb after takeoff, the engine lost power. The pilot was unable to maintain airspeed and the airplane stalled and crashed.

The post-accident examination revealed no mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. However, the fuel selector was observed in the off range after the accident.

Post-accident testing of the selector valve revealed no mechanical anomalies. While the pilot’s cockpit actions pertaining to the fuel selector valve following the loss of engine power could not be determined, the lack of a pre-impact mechanical failure of the engine or its systems, and the lack of an issue related to fuel quality are consistent with the fuel selector valve being in the off position for takeoff. Inspection and operational testing of the fuel selector valve was reportedly performed during the last annual and 100-hour inspections, however, no guidance was given to maintenance personnel on how to perform the operational shutdown test.

The mechanic who performed the last 100-hour inspection approximately six months before the accident failed to detect that the fuel selector valve guard and stop did not contain required markings that clearly depict the off range. Airworthiness Directive (AD) 85-05-02 required modification of the fuel selector guard by installation of a “Selector Stop” and also by installation of a decal P/N 169-920039-3. The AD referenced Beechcraft Mandatory Service Bulletin 2053, which depicts a decal required to be installed at the fuel selector and also depicts radial lines on the selector stop in-line with radial lines on the fuel selector guard associated with the left and right main tank detent positions.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper placement of the fuel selector valve during takeoff, and his failure to maintain adequate airspeed following a total loss of engine power resulting in an inadvertent stall. Contributing to the accident was the failure of maintenance personnel to detect the lack of proper markings on the fuel selector stop and fuel selector valve shroud at the last 100-hour inspection.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10FA150



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  1. Bflt Tom says

    I have seen something like this happen in a shop in Californian where I worked as a A&P tech. A customer brought in a RV-4 that had been damaged on landing. We did extensive work to the engine, prop, engine/landing gear mount. After a few ground runs, the owner called a friend who also owned a RV-4 and was a more experienced pilot to do the test flight with him. They returned from the short test flight very angry with us asking what we did to the engine. The engine had died after they took off and after switching tanks they were able to regain power and return to the ground safely. It turned out the RV-4 of the more experienced pilot and this RV-4 had their fuel selector valves installed with different orientations. On one plane the selector handle pointed forward for off, on the other the handle pointed aft for off. Both valves were labeled correctly, but the experienced pilot had grown accustomed to switching tanks without looking at the placards on his plane and when he did the same on this plane, inadvertently shut the fuel off.

    I guess the moral of the story is to be alert.
    The are too few lerts in this world.

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