Fuel selector confusion blamed for engine failure

This October 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 172. Injuries: 2 Minor. Location: Durango, Colo. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The first takeoff attempt was aborted when the passenger’s door popped open. The pilot taxied back to the end of the runway, closed the door, and began the takeoff. During the second takeoff attempt, as the airplane reached about 200 feet, the engine sputtered and lost power. The pilot enriched the mixture and applied carburetor heat, and the engine sputtered and lost power a second time. The pilot said that, during the forced landing, he shut the fuel off and turned off the master switch before the airplane came down on a dry river bottom.

A post-accident examination revealed that the fuel selector was found in the BOTH position at the accident site, even though the pilot reported he shut the fuel off prior to impact. The engine was test run to full power, and no anomalies were noted. It is likely that the pilot inadvertently turned off the fuel before the last takeoff, particularly since he was unfamiliar with this model of airplane.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to the pilot inadvertently moving the fuel selector to the OFF position. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s unfamiliarity with this model accident airplane.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN11LA001

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