Aircraft: Fairchild M-62A-3. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Waukegan, Illinois. Aircraft damage:
What reportedly happened: The pilot checked the airplane’s fuel quantity using the fuel gauges but did not perform a visual inspection of the fuel tanks or top off the tanks.
He selected the right fuel tank because its gauge indicated that it was 3/4 full.
During the flight, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power while on the downwind to base leg of the traffic pattern. The pilot turned toward the runway but realized that there was another airplane on short final, so he elected to perform an off-airport landing in a field.
Examination of the airplane revealed that there was no usable fuel aboard the airplane although the right fuel gauge indicated 3/4 full. The left fuel gauge indicated empty.
FAA safety guidance information states that fuel gauges are subject to malfunctions and errors, and certification regulations only require that a fuel gauge read “zero” during level flight when the quantity of fuel remaining in the tank is equal to the unusable fuel supply. Therefore, fuel gauges should not be depended upon for checking the fuel quantity in a tank, and pilots should either top off fuel tanks or perform a visual inspection of fuel tanks to verify fuel quantity.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection of the airplane, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a total loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident were a malfunctioning fuel gauge and air traffic that prevented an on-airport landing.
NTSB Identification: CEN11LA635
This September 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it isintended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.