Fuel exhaustion brings down Cherokee

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: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Louisville, Kent. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot received a weather briefing prior to departing on the 277-nautical mile cross-country flight and had the Piper refueled to the tabs, which was 35 gallons of fuel.

The pilot stated that he could operate with full fuel because of weight limitations. When filled completely, the maximum usable fuel capacity of the Cherokee was 48 gallons. The headwinds were stronger than the pilot had anticipated they would be along the route. The engine quit due to fuel exhaustion about one mile from the destination airport. The airplane was substantially damaged during the forced landing on a road. The post-accident investigation found two cups of fuel in each fuel tank. No fuel was found in the gascolator or the carburetor. According to the POH, at 75 percent power, and operating with a “lean mixture,” the airplane’s fuel consumption rate was 10 gallons per hour. The pilot told investigators that he should have stopped for fuel.

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

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10CA214



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