Poor preflight leads to crash

Aircraft: Cirrus SR22T. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious. Location: Carrollton, Texas. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 550-hour instrument-rated pilot reported 209 flight hours in a Cirrus SR22, and 35 hours in actual instrument conditions. The airplane was managed by a management company. The pilot requested that it be refueled before the flight, but according to the report filed by the NTSB, the line-service at the management company was unable to find the airplane to refuel it, so the refueling did not take place.

The pilot did not visually verify the fuel level in the tanks during the preflight inspection. He took off with low fuel alerts manifesting on the flight displays. About 10 minutes into the flight, he notified ATC that the engine was running rough and that he needed to return to the airport.

The pilot’s first instrument approach terminated in a missed approach. During a second approach, the engine lost power, and the pilot attempted a forced landing to a field.

Witnesses saw the airplane’s parachute deploy before impact. There was no evidence of fuel or fuel spillage at the accident site.

An examination and operational test of the engine was performed. No defects in engine operation were detected, and the engine produced full rated power during the test.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to adequately preflight the airplane prior to departure, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA037

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. Bluestar says

    Nobody mentioned the weather man, hell he must take responsibility in this too.
    Look folks, people being people will always make some stupid mistake, and in some cases it might be the one that bites the hardest, sorry for the loss of life.

  2. BJS says

    The FBO is absolutely in no way at fault here and it’s beyond me how anyone could say they were? At my very first lesson the very first thing my CFI taught me was to ALWAYS either visually confirm full tanks or stick the tanks (I remember that he also said there is nothing more inaccurate than an airplane fuel gauge), drain each sump and examine the fuel for the correct fuel and any particulate matter or water.

    Also my rule (and I understand that some planes can’t carry a full passenger load plus full tanks, but I have a Cessna 182T that can, however, if I had one of these planes someone would be staying behind in order for me to depart with full tanks) is never pass up a gas pump and never depart with less than full tanks (additionally it makes sense to top off the tanks in order to minimize water condensation). You never know when you might decided to do a couple of touch and goes at the local cow pasture, fog move in and you might have to fly 500 miles to locate a suitable airport at which to land. In fact this happened locally very recently and the pilot had to put the plane down in a field and it flipped. It may happen to me some day, but accidents due to fuel mis-management are totally inexcusable.

    There is a pilot at our local airport who is known for never pre-flighting. A couple of years ago he taxied to the end of the runway but prior to departure realized he had a flat on one of the mains so called the FBO to come down with an air tank. They aired up the tire and as he was taxiing back to the FBO he ran out of fuel.

  3. Air says

    It is unfortunate that another life was lost in an accident. The FBO is not at fault here and if you fly GA long enough or fly enough these things happen, we forgot, we couldn’t find the aircraft, the pump on the truck is down, etc. The pilot in command should have visually checked the fuel level. As for the accidents involving a Cirrus as Rod states…it had zero to do with this accident. Rather than point the finger at others, why don’t we, as pilots, simply take lessons learned from these accidents/incidents…which is the purpose for which these articles are written.

  4. Lee Ensminger says

    “The pilot did not visually verify the fuel level in the tanks during the preflight inspection. He took off with low fuel alerts manifesting on the flight displays.”

    This “pilot” was not smarter than a rock. End of story. You can request that the FBO refuel the airplane, but you’re an idiot if [1] you don’t verify it was done, with the correct fuel, and [2] you ignore the high-tech and very clear “low fuel” warnings and take off anyway. I agree with Tom-if the plane had been mis-fueled [although that would have been extremely difficult] they would share liability. But just because you left an “order” to refuel and it didn’t happen, then took off anyway despite not verifying fuel and listening to the warnings doesn’t make them liable for your stupidity. As PIC you are solely responsible for the safety of the flight.

  5. vaughn S. Price says

    What is there to discuss here? With 15000+ general aviation hours I will not get in the seat until I have visually verified the gas in all tanks by pulling the gas caps and sticking the tanks

  6. AH says

    Concur w/ sentiments expressed to a large degree — but, I believe the FBO should be named and has liability…. it was tasked with fueling and then ‘doesn’t find it’? In today’s age of ubiquitous contact / communication – why was no word perhaps left for the pilot? Again, pilot is responsible – but not completely; that the FBO silently did not complete their task is abominable.

    • Tom says

      I disagree. Any number of things can happen to prevent a proper fill up. If they had put Jet-A in the tanks, then they share liability. Running out of fuel is entirely the pilot’s fault, assuming there are no mechanical problems or tank leaks. I’ve also had fuel stolen from mine, so always, always, always check the fuel, even if you think you know how much is in there.

      Regarding the FBO contacting him, If they couldn’t find it, they couldn’t leave a note, and did the pilot check in with the FBO? I guess not.

      • Mike says

        Tom, with your “did the pilot check in with the FBO?” question you inadvertantly bring up another possible question. That being, perhaps he either forgot that also…. or perhaps didn’t intend to pay for the fuel which could explain why he was in a hurry to depart since he didn’t take time to check fuel levels and ignored the low fuel warning.

        Regardless, I agree with those who feel the pilot was solely at fault, the FBO has no liability in this. The accident, death, and injuries are sad nonetheless.

    • Sarah A says

      You sound like a laywer and it is that sort of thinking that is destroying aviation. You can make all the requests for fuel you want but it is still the pilots responsibility to insure the plane is ready for flight. Sounds like someone with more money then brains bought an expensive airplane and managed to accumulate a modest amount of time before crashing his toy. I doubt that there was any preflight inspection done, just jumped in and flew away. Taking off with low fuel warning displayed is evidence of criminal stupidity !!!

      • Richard says

        My exact thoughts, Sarah. There is no way the FBO is responsible for this idiot taking off without checking the amount of fuel in the tanks visually. Sad.

  7. Tom says

    It’s amazing to me that he didn’t check fuel. I don’t care if I watch them fuel my bird; I climb up the ladder, eyeball the fuel level (or stick it if too low to see), and reseat the caps. There’s no excuse for ever leaving the ground without confirming that orders were followed. To read that the panel was screaming “low-fuel” makes it even more insane.

    I suspect that two factors come into play with a fair percentage of Cirrus crashes. Some buy the high-performance bird, but have only C-172 skills. Some seem to think that an airframe parachute makes them invincible. I read about one fellow that climbed his Cirrus straight up through freezing clouds, iced it up, and pulled the chute. Would he have done that if he had an older 182?

    • Joseph says

      This fellow had no skills , a 172 or any airplane without fuel will not have the power to continue flying, we had one of these ‘ I have more money than common sense pilots at our airport ‘ !

  8. says

    Since statistics show a very high percentage of accidents by Cirrus pilots/owners/operators, perhaps a
    “psychological study” of sorts is long overdo here?

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