Poor fuel management by Piper pilot

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Margaret, Ala. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot and passenger departed on a local flight. The airplane was in cruise flight, about 1,000 feet AGL, when the engine lost power.

Attempts to restart the engine were unsuccessful. The pilot made an emergency landing on a road, and the airplane struck a ditch.

The post-accident examination revealed that the right fuel tank was empty. Fuel was found in the left tank, and it flowed normally when the left tank was selected.

Investigators determined that it was likely that all of the fuel in the right fuel tank was used and, due to the low altitude, fuel from the left tank did not reach the engine for attempted restart before the pilot had to configure the airplane for an off-airport landing.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power during cruise flight due to fuel starvation.

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA253

This March 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. Tom says

    They flew on with out much of a care,
    One tank would run dry eventually,
    They could no longer stay in the air,
    Out of gas and so close to the trees.

  2. Greg W says

    This may not have been the case in this instance, but why do so many run a tank until it coughs then switch tanks? Why, unless trying for that last mile to Hawaii, would a pilot intentionally cause an engine failure by running a tank dry? Are these the same people we see walking down the highway because they “know” it will go another 30 miles when the low fuel light comes on? Fuel management is one thing that we have full control over,don’t run out of gas.
    One more curious thing, how did the FAA inspector or the NTSB official that compiled the report determine the aircraft construction? The aircraft is reported as a PA-28-180,it then states, “It was comprised of a steel tube fuselage and an aluminum frame wing.” since when is a Cherokee a steel tube fuselage? This thing seems to have started in the air by not paying attention and ended with the investigators not paying attention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *