Round-robin flight out of fuel

This July 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 Cardinal. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Owasso, Okla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The accident happened at the end of a long cross-country flight that involved several legs and picking up and dropping off passengers. On the last leg the front seats were occupied by two private pilots.

The person sitting in the left seat held a private pilot certificate and had logged 314 flight hours. The person in the right seat held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, a private glider rating, and an airplane-instrument rating, but his total flight experience was not known. It could not be determined which pilot was flying at the time of the accident.

A passenger who was dropped off before the accident reported that when they landed at the destination airport, the airplane’s approach was a bit shallow and fast and that the plane had run off the end of the runway and into the grass. After inspecting the plane and finding no damage, the pilot taxied it to the ramp to continue the trip. The passenger added that at some point, someone asked about the need to refuel for the return trip. The pilot replied, “we’re good.”

Several witnesses in the vicinity of the accident airport saw the Cardinal approach, then enter a spin to the left and crash nose-down near the airport. Two witnesses added that as the airplane approached the airfield, there was no engine noise.

The post-accident examination of the airframe revealed that the airplane had run out of fuel.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during an engine-out approach to the runway, resulting in an aerodynamic stall and spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10FA385


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