Poor fuel management by Piper pilots

Aircraft: Piper Tomahawk. Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor. Location: Manville, N.J. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, accompanied by his pilot-rated son, departed on a flight to practice instrument approaches at three different airports.

The practice approaches flown by the father were uneventful. The airplane was drawing from the right fuel tank during the approaches.

The son flew the return flight. When the airplane was on the base leg of the traffic pattern, the engine experienced a total loss of engine power.

The pilots said that the fuel selector was on the left wing tank, and the corresponding fuel quantity gauge indicated that the tank was empty. The pilots switched the fuel selector to the right tank, and attempted to restart the engine, but were unsuccessful, so they conducted a forced landing to a road.

The post-accident examination revealed that the left fuel tank contained less than one pint of fuel, and the right fuel tank contained approximately six gallons.

Probable cause: The improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.

NTSB Identification: ERA11CA225

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. Steve says

    Given the price of 100LL exceeds $6/gal most everywhere, it’s too easy to just look at the fuel gages and then go fly. Now retired, I know the feeling myself — “I don’t want to put any more on my credit card, and I don’t want to take the time” for a fill-up.

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