Loss of engine power brings down motorglider

Aircraft: Pipistrel Virus. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Ray, Mich. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: A witness reported that the motorglider engine did not sound normal during the preflight run-up or takeoff.

The motorglider launched to the west and entered a gradual left turn. When the aircraft was approximately 200 feet above ground level, the engine lost power. The aircraft crashed on a golf course less than a mile from the airport.

The post-accident examination revealed an accumulation of debris on the inlet side of the fuel pump screen. The appearance of the debris was similar to the fiberglass material used in the construction of the airframe. The fuel tanks had been repaired shortly before the accident due to damage related to the use of fuel containing ethanol. The engine fuel line did not contain any fuel and the carburetors contained only a minimal amount of fuel.

Although the finding of minimal fuel was consistent with fuel starvation, a definitive reason for a starvation event could not be determined.

According to a carburetor icing probability chart, an airplane operating in the ambient conditions at the time of the accident could expect a serious risk of carburetor icing while at cruise and glide power. Engine operations at low power during ground operations are similar to that of operations at glide power, making the carburetor susceptible to icing prior to takeoff; however, a conclusive determination related to the presence of carburetor icing was not possible.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power due to fuel starvation for reasons that could not be determined because the post-accident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA149

This February 2012 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. Greg W says

    Reads like a typical multiple cause accident. The engine failure due to fuel starvation, brought on by possible improper repair and lack of additional filters as required by the maintenance instructions. The fuel tank repair required due to damage from improper fuel,(ethanol). The NTSB also notes high probability of carb ice. Last as Mark questioned, why when landing on a golf course with a glider did it hit hard enough to cause a fatality,was something in his way? The long list of medications may have something to do with that, if not from the meds. but perhaps what they were being taken for. In the end it reveals multiple and compounding causes, the longer and more complicated the chain the easier it is to have something go wrong.

  2. Mark Francis says

    I’m curious on how this “motor glider” crashed sufficiently to cause a fatality. More details would be appreciated .

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