Poor fuel management for Mooney

Aircraft: Mooney M20. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Ridgefield, Conn. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot told investigators that he did a preflight inspection, including a visual check of the fuel quantity. The fuel gauges indicated half tanks, which corresponded with 14 to 19 gallons in each side.

It took two attempts to start the engine. The run-up and takeoff were normal.

However, at 1,100 feet MSL during the crosswind turn, the engine quit. Attempts to restart the engine were unsuccessful. The pilot made a forced landing in a residential neighborhood.

The post-accident examination did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.

The fuel selector was positioned to the left fuel tank, which was empty. The right fuel tank contained about eight gallons of fuel. The fuel tanks were intact and there was no evidence of a fuel spill at the accident site.

The airplane was last fueled on Aug. 27, 2011. According to the fuel slip, line personnel added 12 gallons of fuel to both the left and right fuel tanks, for a total of 24 gallons. The pilot said he had the fuel tanks topped off on that day, but the line personnel indicated to an FAA inspector that if a full “top-off” is requested, that they write that on the fuel slip. A copy of the fuel slip was obtained and “top-off” was not written on it. In addition, according to an FAA inspector, 94 gallons of fuel had been added to the airplane since June 30, 2011, and the airplane had been operated approximately 8.1 hours since that time.

The airplane was equipped with an Electronics International Fuel Flow Instrument that retained the fuel quantity in the electronic memory. When the FAA inspector turned on the master switch, he noted that the fuel flow instrument aural warning activated, the fuel low and high/low fuel pressure warning lights were blinking, and the fuel quantity read-out was zero. He also noted that when power was applied, he could hear the fuel boost pumps operating.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA001

This October 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:

    As usual Mooney 9242V hits the nail on the head. I only have 15000 hrs plus and I still stick the tanks of my daughters Cessna 152 before any flight

  2. 9242V, the answer is probably not. Thank god no fatalities on the ground. Fuel is as basic as breathing. I know you dont think about it untill you cant. But we better start thinking about it as a first priority. This will be used more and more against GA if our “little planes” keep falling from the sky.

  3. Mooney 9242V says:

    I alawys thought one great advantage to a Mooney is how easy it is to peer into the tanks on a preflight. Could it be that no preflight was done?

    • That was my first thought also. Me thinks it’s probable he did not do a visual of the tanks regardless of what he said afterwards.

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