Bonanza runs out of fuel

Aircraft: Beech Bonanza. Injuries: None. Location: Des Moines, Iowa. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, shortly after takeoff the airplane’s alternator indicated a discharge condition. He attempted to return to the departure airport. When the airplane was on final approach at about 100 feet AGL, the engine lost power. The plane didn’t have enough altitude to glide to the runway and it came down short, landing on an airport security fence.

The post-accident examination revealed that the fuel strainer and fuel line to the engine contained no fuel. The fuel selector was found in the OFF position. When moved to the main or auxiliary tank positions fuel flowed to the fuel line at the engine. About two gallons of fuel remained in the left main tank and about three gallons in each auxiliary tank. There was no fuel visible in the right main fuel tank. The unusable fuel for each main tank is three gallons, and a half gallon for each auxiliary tank. The pilot said that he had departed with the fuel selector set to the left main fuel tank as required by the pilot’s operating handbook.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the pilot’s inadequate fuel planning.

NTSB Identification: CEN11LA148

This December 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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