Headwind, poor math, result in fuel exhaustion

Aircraft: Cessna 210. Injuries: None. Location: Abilene, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot departed on a 615-nautical mile cross-country flight. He determined the flight would take him about four hours and 15 minutes. He had about five and a half hours of fuel on-board.

He received a weather briefing before departing. During the flight, the actual winds were stronger than those that were forecast. The stronger headwinds added time to the flight.

When the airplane was about 50 miles from the destination airport, the pilot picked up an IFR clearance and started his descent from 9,500 feet with a solid cloud layer below him. As he broke out from the clouds, he realized he could not land at the destination airport.

The engine lost power. He switched fuel tanks and the engine re-started. The controller asked the pilot if he had enough fuel to make an alternate airport, which was located about 44 miles away. The pilot replied that the right fuel tank showed one-third full. The airplane was three miles from the alternate airport when the engine lost power again. The pilot could not get it restarted, so he made a forced landing on a road and the plane hit a signpost.

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

NTSB Identification: CEN11CA132

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.


  1. Vaughn S. Price says

    Learn fuel management, especially in IFR cross country. Low RPM’s High Manifold pressure
    enables a leaner mixture. multiple requests for winds aloft and changing altitude to take advantage of same. a higher altitude means leaner mixture, longer range.
    If you still blow it and the guage’s read empty. you can usually gain a good fifty miles by lowering each wing to drain the remaining fuel in each tank inboard.one tank then the other tank. note:Very few high time pilots are aware of this, and most Instructors have never heard of it, I have used it several times in my 15000+ hours

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