Delayed pre-landing check leads to forced landing

This June 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 401. Injuries: 3 Serious. Location: Plymouth, Mass. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The airplane was returning from a three-hour aerial mapping mission and was lined up for a straight-in, five-mile final approach for landing. About three miles out on final approach, and prior to performing the before-landing check, both engines stopped producing power, one almost immediately after the other.

The pilot said that by the time he completed his remedial actions, the plane had descended to about 200 feet above the ground and the engines would not restart.

The auxiliary fuel tank gauges were bouncing between two to five gallons and the main tanks were bouncing around at 25 gallons per side. The pilot then selected a forced landing site between two large trees.

A detailed examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical anomalies.

According to information contained in the aircraft manufacturer’s owner’s manual, the auxiliary fuel tanks are designed for cruising flight and are not equipped with pumps. In addition, operation near the ground below 1,000 feet the use of auxiliary fuel tanks is not recommended. The first step in the before-landing check was to select the main fuel tanks on both the left and right fuel selectors. The pilot indicated that he should have selected the main tanks sooner and performed the before-landing check earlier in the approach.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power during final approach due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s delayed configuration of the airplane for landing.

For more information: NTSB Identification: ERA10LA317



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