Pilot miscalculates fuel needs

Aircraft: Cessna 182. Injuries: None. Location: Dandrige, Tenn. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot reported he fueled the airplane with enough fuel for two flights with skydivers with a 30-minute reserve.

The first approach was as planned. During the second approach, the pilot had to adjust his flight path for other airplane traffic. During final approach, the engine sputtered and lost power. He landed the plane in a field short of the runway. During the landing roll the plane nosed over and came to rest on its back.

The pilot reported that the airplane experienced fuel starvation and that he did not maintain the required reserve. He indicated that more fuel would have been his recommendation to avoid this accident.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of poor planning.

NTSB Identification: ERA11CA430

This July 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. Richard Baker says

    As a 23 year skydiver, a 182 isn’t going to 14,000′. Most Cessna jump planes stay pretty much over or very near the DZ and I wonder what the jump pilot was thinking. Not much, it appears.

  2. George says


    At the risk of pointing out what should be obvious, your argument rests on the premise that if a certain regulation didn’t prevent this accident then that regulation is not worthwhile. Similar logic would supporting the following argument: The FAA makes aircraft flying over 14,000 ft carry oxygen. What a waste! That didn’t help the pilot here. The money spent on an O2 system for this aircraft should have been spent on a fuel totalizer. Without a doubt, this pilot would have benefitted from both a fuel totalizer and a reminder on the importance of fuel management, but that has nothing to do with whether the plane should have seatbelts or whether pilots should get medical exams.

    Many pilots seem not to like regulations that are a burden on them in particular, and feel that they’re safe pilots regardless of what the regulations say. For example, this pilot may have said “I know the rules, but I don’t need that big of a fuel reserve.” Similarly, many pilots say “I can’t quite pass the FAA medical, but my blood pressure doesn’t keep me from being a safe pilot.” Consider whether you really don’t think the medical is a useful requirement on its own merits, or whether you find it problematic and have therefore decided it’s not useful.

  3. Norm says

    How about a medical and emergency training. Though the latter won’t be required if you collapse at the controls.

  4. Mooney 9242V says

    I bet he had a current medical! I wonder if an hour of dual instruction on flying, not FAA procedures, would have been money better spent than the nonsense medical certification and possible eliminating a needless accident. Want to improve the accident record, instruction on airplane flying procedures will generate far better results than medical certification which has a zero percent record in reducing accidents. Ther FAA policy is resulting in feel good regulation which provides no recorded empirical benfeits to GA. We all need refreshers on such things as fuel management, etc. When will they (the FAA) ever learn? Personally, I would trade off my medical for two hours of annual instruction on emergency procedures and other worthile areas. It would be great to reduce the probability of making a pilot error.

    • Gunslingernate says

      I bet Mooney 9242V never flew for a drop zone. Have you ever seen a working jump plane? The jumpers are more nervous in the plane than once they jump because the plane ride is the most dangerous part of the jump. When I was flying jumpers the last thing I needed was 2 hours with some cfi who probably has never flown jumpers to tell me about safety in the airplane I flew every day. Jump pilots have lots of real world problems that private pilots flying around in their own airplanes know nothing about. This pilot screwed up and made a bad decision, but you should understand the kind of pressure there is to always make precisely the right decision on a drop zone. Training with the chief pilot can be helpful, but not some random CFI. Many CFIs have never been outside of their training bubble and don’t know much about the rest of the flying world. The idea that a jump pilot could skip his medical and instead receive two hours of dual is ridiculous.

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