Bad fuel management for Baron

Aircraft: Beech Baron. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: Broken Bow, Neb. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot stated that the airplane was fully fueled before departure. The fuel system was composed of two 37-gallon main fuel tanks and two 31-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks. The pilot stated he had not used any of the fuel in the auxiliary tanks before the loss of engine power.

He said he noted an imbalance between the left and right main fuel tanks during cruise flight. He attempted to correct the imbalance by placing the left fuel selector in the cross-feed position so that both engines would receive fuel from the right main fuel tank.

About 15 minutes after he selected the cross-feed position, both engines lost power. When the pilot re-set the left and right fuel selectors to the left main and the right auxiliary fuel tanks, the left engine regained power and the right engine began surging.

The pilot decided not to shut down the right engine and diverted to the nearest suitable airport. During final approach, the right engine lost power completely, and the airspeed decayed until it approached the airplane’s minimum control airspeed.

When the airplane drifted right of the runway centerline, the pilot reduced power on the left engine in an attempt to maintain control. The airplane crashed an open field near the runway and caught fire.

The post-accident examination revealed both fuel selectors were positioned to their respective main fuel tanks. The pilot’s operating handbook noted that the cross-feed system was not to be used to transfer fuel from one tank to another or to balance fuel during flight.

The simultaneous loss of engine power while both engines were receiving fuel from one fuel tank, the restoration of power on the left engine after switching fuel tanks, operation at or near the fuel endurance limit for the right main fuel tank, and the lack of anomalies identified during the engine exams are consistent with exhaustion of fuel in the right main tank.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed and subsequent loss of control during a single-engine landing approach. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s improper fuel management during cruise flight, which resulted in an initial loss of power in both engines and the subsequent single-engine approach after power was restored on only one engine.

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA210

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.

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