Pilot grabs wrong knob

Aircraft: Bellanca Cruisemaster. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Borger, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was on a cross-country flight. Twenty miles from the destination airport when airplane was at an altitude of 9,500 feet MSL, he  began the landing sequence. He intended to change fuel tanks when the plane reached 5,000 feet.

During the procedure the engine lost power. He turned on the fuel pump and attempted to turn the fuel selector knob. The knob broke in half, leaving just the post.

Unable to turn the post and restart the engine, he made a forced landing in an open area. During the forced landing, the left wing hit a tree, the landing gear collapsed, and the fuselage sustained substantial damage.

After the accident, the pilot told investigators that he mistakenly turned the fuel gauge selector knob rather than the fuel selector knob, then got distracted by the knob breaking.

Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s improper fuel management. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s diverted attention with the broken fuel gauge knob.

NTSB Identification: CEN12CA051

This November 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 price says

    A person so out of touch with his only means of support should not be allowed to risk his own neck as well as others, he is not even a safe freeway driver

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