Poor fuel management brings down Beech

Aircraft: Beech Bonanza. Injuries: None. Location: Elkhart Lake, Wis. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot departed for the planned 1 hour and 40 minute flight with 58 total gallons of fuel on board. While in cruise flight at 2,500 feet MSL, the engine lost power.

After switching fuel tanks and several unsuccessful engine restart attempts, he made a forced landing in a field.

The pilot stated that, at the time of the accident, he estimated that the left and right fuel tanks were about half full.

A post-accident examination showed about 35 gallons of fuel in the left fuel tank and no fuel in the right fuel tank. The fuel selector was selected to the right tank. The right fuel tank was intact, and the left fuel tank bladder contained a tear, in which the fuel drained until it reached a level below the tear. No fuel was in the fuel lines from the right tank and through the engine fuel system, which was consistent with fuel starvation.

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

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA074

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. Sarah A says

    I was always tought the when the engine quits you select the fullest tank, or at least the other tank on the assumption that the current one is empty, along with turning on the boost pump to try and get fuel back to the engine. It would sound like this pilot never bothered to try his other tank, or look at the fuel giage since that would have shown the problem. Just because you have a lot of money for a nice expensive airplane does not mean that you are qualified to fly it. What they leave out is total time, and time in type to help judge if this was a pilot with low experience that just did not know better or a serious error by a high time pilot.

  2. KG says

    It truly amazes me. Its all about attention to detail when flying. There are those that do and those that wish they had. As a Flight instructor I can only say this individual will most likely never forget about fuel management again and should count their blessings. It could have been worse.. Nothing worse than “The fuel you left behind or the altitude you left above when there is an emergency of this nature.” In this case either one of those would have probably given them more options and prevented this outcome.

    • Tom says

      I’m still hearing “voices” Bluestar and I say that without the “voices” YOU are gonna have problems. By the way you were rude the other day when I was trying to witness to Sarah but I forgive you.

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