Pilot forgets to check fuel valve

This April 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: Ercoupe 415-C. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: LaGrange, Ga. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: After completing a pre-flight inspection of the airplane, the pilot flew to an airport 32 nautical miles away. He landed, taxied back, and took off for an airport some 16 nm away. Again, he made a full stop landing and taxied back, intending to fly back to the airport of original departure. The pilot took off.

When the Ercoupe was in the traffic pattern of the departure airport at about 1,000 feet AGL, the engine sputtered and lost power. The pilot attempted to glide to the runway but landed short of the pavement. The hard landing buckled the nosegear.

Subsequent examination of the airplane revealed that the fuel header tank was empty, while the two wing tanks were almost full. The fuel tank shut-off valve and the main fuel valve were found in the off position, but the pilot stated that he had turned off both upon evacuation of the airplane. He also stated that it was his practice to turn off the fuel tank shut-off valve after every flight. The fuel tank shut-off valve controlled fuel flow from the wing tanks to the header tank. With the lack of fuel found in the header tank, it was likely that the fuel tank shut-off valve had been in the off position for all three flights, which ultimately resulted in fuel starvation to the engine.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection and his failure to ensure that the fuel tank shut-off valve was open resulting in fuel starvation.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10LA248




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