Engine failure on takeoff kills two

Aircraft: Lancair 360. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Chesapeake, Va. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was taking his sister on a short flight. According to witnesses on the ground, the airplane took off and was beyond the departure end of the runway at an altitude of about 200 to 300 feet when the engine began sputtering and backfiring. The plane turned sharply back toward the runway, stalled, and spun. It began to recover, and there was a brief restoration of engine power before impact.

No pre-existing mechanical anomalies were noted with the engine or the airplane.

Both fuel tanks were found empty, but compromised. Areas of browned vegetation at the crash site indicated that, although specific fuel amounts could not be determined, very little fuel had been in the left fuel tank and far more fuel had been in the right tank.

Although the fuel selector was found in the right tank position, its position prior to the loss of engine power could not be determined. Investigators determined if the fuel selector had been selected to the right tank while the airplane was in its initial climb attitude, it is possible that there was an insufficient quantity of fuel in the tank to cover the port that supplied the engine and that, when the nose of the airplane subsequently fell during the stall, fuel moved forward to cover the port and resupply fuel to the engine, resulting in the restored power heard by witnesses. A more likely scenario is that the pilot took off with the fuel selected to the left tank, and, once the loss of engine power occurred, he selected the right tank, which resupplied fuel to the engine before impact.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed following a loss of engine power, resulting in an aerodynamic stall and spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s selection of the wrong fuel tank at takeoff, which resulted in fuel starvation and the total loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA222

This April 2011 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. RudyH says

    Meticulous use of checklist, if there was one, would have been in order regarding position of fuel selector, let alone visual inspection of tanks on pre-flight for status.

  2. Mike says

    Agree. Regardless of the fuel situation (which seems to be entirely speculation at this point anyway), they would both likely be alive today if he had tried to land straight ahead instead of turning back to the runway…. the ‘Impossible Turn’ is called that for a reason.

  3. Brian Adelhardt says

    “The plane turned sharply back toward the runway” to me tells the crucial story. Loss of power on takeoff can’t be resolved by turning back. A sad and regretful error.

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