Failure to refuel leads to engine failure

Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Winter Haven, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot reviewed the weather prior to departing on the 416-nautical mile cross-country flight. He fueled the airplane with 30.1 gallons of fuel the morning of the flight but did not refuel en route.

About three miles from the destination airport, as the airplane was descending through 1,500 feet MSL, the engine sputtered and lost power. During the forced landing, the airplane struck a tree, went down a hill and came to rest in a small pond.

The post-accident examination by a FAA inspector revealed that the airplane’s left fuel tank contained 2.5 gallons of fuel, the right fuel tank contained 0.5 gallons of fuel. The fuel selector was in the “BOTH” position.

A review of the airplane’s Owner’s Manual revealed that the unusable fuel in level flight was 0.5 gallons. At 67% power, and operating with a lean mixture, the airplane’s fuel consumption rate was 7.6 gallons per hour. When asked how the accident could have been prevented, the pilot stated that he should have stopped for fuel en route.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate fuel planning, resulting in fuel exhaustion and total loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: ERA11CA069

This November 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.

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