Fuel starvation for Mooney

Aircraft: Mooney M20C. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Allen, Okla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was on a cross country flight with the fuel selector set to the left tank when the engine quit.

He attempted to restore fuel to the engine by switching to the right tank, which contained fuel. The pilot said he was too low to attempt an engine restart, so he elected to perform a gear-up landing in a field.

The airplane’s fuselage and right wing sustained substantial damage during the landing.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power in flight due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s inadequate fuel management.

NTSB Identification: CEN11CA609

This August 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. Buford Suffridge says

    I’m a low hour private pilot (290 hours, 150 of it in a Cessna 182) so someone needs to set me straight on a question I have? I constantly see where plane after plane crashes because the selector is on one tank which runs empty while the other one held fuel. I NEVER start my engine without the selector on both tanks. Why do so many pilots fly on one tank? Is it stupidity or is there a reason that I’m unaware of? Not once did either of the two CFI’s I’ve had tell me to fly with the selector only on one tank, nor did the FAA examiner who gave me my check ride. Practically the first item on my check list is: Selector on both.

    • Rob Pippins says

      Not only mooneys! Most, if not all low wing aircraft have a fuel selector knob because gravity does not play a roll in fuel to the engine as it does on a high wing aircraft. Fuel management is a major task in any aircraft, but on these its a bit different. On start up, you choose one tank. Taxi, on the same tank and then switch before run up. Run on this tank for 30 min. Switch tanks with fuel pump on and run for an hour if on a long cx then swap again. The idea is to use the tanks fuel supply equally as to not off set the weight of the plane. As I stated, it’s another thing to have to manage in a low wing but if its what your used to, as anything else, you just do it. I find that fuel starvation stories typically come from older pilots and those with high hours trying to stretch the limits of fuel and make longer legs. Had they just swooped down for 15 min, topped off and continued, they would either still be alive or had a flyable plane the next day. Plan for 1-2 gal more burned, 30 min less than FAA says and calculate while you fly like you did when you started and there should be no reason pilot error should cause the statistic. Just my thoughts.

  2. Pete says

    Why was he too low? If he was too low for an engine restart, he should’ve been near an airport or on an approach to land. Doesn’t make sense.

  3. Mooney 9242V says

    But, I bet he had a current third class medical certificate. Ask the pilot if givena choice, would he get a medical or an anual hour of dual instruction on emergency procedures, not FAA regulations!

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