Cirrus runs out of fuel on training flight

This August 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: Cirrus SR22 Injuries: None. Location: Acworth, Ga. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: A CFI and private pilot departed on an instructional flight with 24 gallons of fuel in both the left and right main fuel tanks. The CFI could not recall which fuel tank was selected at takeoff, however, he stated that the private pilot was switching fuel tanks every 30 minutes during the flight.

The airplane climbed up to 4,500 feet MSL and cruised at 75% power to their first destination airport, where they conducted eight touch-and-go takeoffs and landings. They continued to the next destination airport at 3,500 feet MSL and made one full stop landing, taxied back, conducted an engine run up and departed.

They then climbed up to 3,500 feet MSL and headed back to the departure airport, which was approximately nine miles away. As they approached their destination the engine lost power.

The CFI took control of the airplane, instructed the student to turn on the alternate air, and he initiated the engine out procedures. Engine power was not restored. The CFI turned and elected to perform a forced landing to a golf course fairway. The airplane hit two trees on the landing roll.

The CFI indicated that the total duration of the flight was two hours 28 minutes. A post-accident examination of the airplane revealed the left wing and fuselage received structural damage. The left main fuel tank was ruptured and no browning of vegetation was present under the left wing, an indication there was likely no fuel in the tank prior to impact. The right fuel tank was not ruptured and 16 gallons of fuel was recovered from the fuel tank. The data extracted from a multifunction display flash card revealed the fuel used for the flight was 29.9 gallons. The flash card indicated the flight was two hours 7 minutes.

Probable cause: Improper in-flight fuel management, resulting in a total loss of engine power during a descent due to fuel starvation.

For more information: NTSB Identification: ERA10LA454

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