Poor fuel management brings down airplane

Aircraft: Lancair Legacy Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Richlands, N.C. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The airplane had two fuel tanks, each capable of holding 33.5 gallons of fuel. Before departing on the last leg of a long cross-country flight, the pilot put 46.1 gallons fuel into the aircraft.

The airplane had been flying for three hours and 39 minutes when the pilot declared an emergency due to low fuel pressure. The controller vectored the flight to the nearest airport. The Lancair crashed in a field three miles from the runway.

Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions.

The fuel selector valve was found positioned to the left main fuel tank, which was empty. The right tank contained approximately 20 gallons of fuel. The investigation could not determine why the pilot did not position the fuel selector handle to the right main fuel tank.

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

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA285

This May 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. victoroneill says

    Why no mention of pilot qualifications and experience with the aircraft?
    Very High performance Experimental needs more than a list to check.
    These stupid accidental suicides give us all a bad rap.

  2. Bart says

    Engine failure Check List:

    1. Tell someone on the radio that the engine just quit! NOT!!!!!

    2. Boost pump on, if applicable.

    3. Mixture rich, if applicable

    4. Throttle full open.

    5. Switch tanks. (If operating in Both mode, switch to left, wait 10 seconds for reaction, if none switch to right.)

    6. If the engine is still cooling off, see No 1 above.

    Of course before you reach for the boost pump switch you’ve already pitched for best glide and turned toward the nearest airport or suitable forced landing site because you already know where it is and you never quit flying the airplane, RIGHT!

    As others here have pointed out there really aren’t many valid excuses for running out of fuel. If so you started doing something dumb long before the engine quit.

  3. Phil says

    This aircraft could hide fuel. Be careful not to throw the pilot under the bus. It is an experimental and fuel system operation may not function as you think. Been there….

  4. Randy says

    You don’t need a checklist to keep from running out of fuel. It’s BASIC. Put fuel in. Don’t fly longer than fuel on board. Real simple. Required no checklist. If you need a checklist to keep from running out of fuel, you should consider taking up something else besides flying.

    • al brancifort says

      Tell that to the piolt who ran out of fuel and killed himself ….A check list is an important part of flying , any tool a pilot uses hopefully can aid in flight saftey, seems you don’t need one, hopefully, we don’t read about you, and what you consider, flying by the wire tatics…… BASIC, checklists are basic………..seems you just read part of my comment, I don’t agree with you or your thought process concerning safety in the cockpit. hopefully others will agree with me.

  5. al brancifort says

    This accident is just plain stupid, yes stupid. We all are tought as pilots to ues CHECK LISTS, before we start the engine, while we run up the engine prior to takeoff, and MOST import in flight. We all know and have experienced how great we felt when we were handed our flying ticket, we were the best of the best we knew it, all about flying….I have in my flight bag, a check list for every type of plane I fly as I rent aircraft, I love flying as many of us do, lets pass the word, Fly as though you were doing your first check ride.

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