Poor fuel management brings down Cessna

Aircraft: Cessna 177. Injuries: None. Location: Santa Clarita, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot visually checked the fuel quantity in both tanks prior to the flight, noting the left fuel tank fuel quantity was within one inch from the filler neck, and the right fuel tank appeared to be half full.

As the flight approached the intended airport, both the pilot and passenger saw the right fuel gauge indicate zero, followed by the left indicating zero.

While attempting to maneuver around clouds to descend to the airport, the engine started to sputter. The pilot switched the fuel selector from the both position to the left fuel tank and the engine stopped almost immediately. He then switched to the right fuel tank, but the engine did not restart.

The pilot initiated a forced landing onto a road. The airplane’s wings hit a few road signs.

The post-accident examination by an FAA inspector revealed both fuel tanks were empty and about a half cup of fuel was drained from the fuel strainer. The FAA inspector also observed a placard on the instrument panel which stated “… [the] Tuned Exhaust System installed on this aircraft may cause the aircraft to burn more fuel at certain power settings. It is the pilot’s responsibility to determine what, if any, change in fuel flow exists and to plan accordingly.”

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight verification of the fuel quantity and his inadequate fuel consumption calculations, which resulted in fuel exhaustion.

NTSB Identification: WPR11LA254

This June 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. Vaughn S. Price says

    I can understand stretching your luck on purpose and depleting your fuel, but whats this about hitting road sides signs during the dead stick landing? Pilots need to have the best available landing spot always on their mind, and in sight at all times, so that any forced landing is just a nice safe landing. Engines do on occasion quit, and in 15000 plus hours I have had many and never scratched an airplane. Higher pilot skills would generally allow a nice result during a forced landing instead of a write up in the accident record

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