Rushed pilot breaks airplane

Aircraft: Beech A36. Injuries: None. Location: El Monte, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial

What reportedly happened: An avionics and flight instrument upgrade were completed on the morning of the accident. The pilot had intended to fly the airplane on a cross-country flight later in the day.

This was to be the first time he had flown the airplane solo since the instrument system upgrade. Although he was instrument rated, the pilot did not want to perform an IFR flight with the new avionics.

He was in a hurry to depart and performed a cursory preflight inspection. He could not recall if he checked the fuel tank quantity or used a checklist.

Ten minutes into the flight the engine experienced a total loss of power. He was convinced that the loss of power was caused by a maintenance oversight and did not switch fuel tanks, perform any troubleshooting steps, or review the emergency checklist. He attempted to perform a forced landing and inadvertently allowed the airplane to stall as it turned from the base leg to the final leg of the traffic pattern. The airplane came down hard, bending both wing spars, collapsing the right main landing gear, and tearing off the nose gear.

The post-accident examination revealed that the left fuel tank was empty and that the fuel selector valve was set to the left tank. The fuel lines from the selector valve to the engine were devoid of fuel.

Additionally, data extracted from the engine monitoring system revealed that the pilot departed with an almost full right tank but limited quantities of fuel in the left tank. The data indicated that he subsequently continued the flight until the fuel in the left tank became exhausted.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during the forced landing, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and hard landing. Contributing to the accident was the loss of engine power due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s improper fuel management.

NTSB Identification: WPR11LA283

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. Greg W says

    1. Poor pre-flight
    2. no check of fuel
    3. engine fails
    4. does not switch tanks/ attempt restart
    5. stalls the airplane on base/final turn at an airport
    Once again it was not one thing that caused the crash, the only connecting item is pilot error. To make it back to an airport and then miss the runway is a tough one to explain as well. Follow the standard procedures for your aircraft, KNOW the emergency checklist, plan to walk away not save the airplane, that is extra! This pilot did good at flying the airplane first, but then forgot to when in the pattern, think “fly it until it’s chocked” and don’t get caught by the chain of events that becomes the accident.

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