Improper fuel management turns fatal

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: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor. Location: Spearfish, South Dakota. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land after a flight of approximately 344 nautical miles. He said the airplane’s airspeed was 70 mph when it was crossing the runway threshold, which was 10 mph slower than he normally used for landing.

He decided to execute a go-around and flew the length of the runway before making the crosswind turn. When he turned left onto the downwind leg, the engine stopped producing power and he executed a forced landing to a field. The Cherokee’s right wing hit a tree after the airplane touched down.

The post-accident inspection of the left fuel tank revealed that it was full of fuel. There was no evidence of fuel in the right wing’s fuel tank. The pilot reported that he did not switch the fuel tanks prior to landing, causing the engine to lose power due to fuel starvation.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10LA430



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