Emergency landing at night goes bad

Aircraft: Cessna 185F. Injuries: None. Location: Winnett, Mont. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot held a commercial certificate but did not have a current medical or flight review at the time of the accident. He had recently purchased the airplane, which had previously been in storage.

He refueled the plane prior to the night flight. According to the pilot, during the flight he switched fuel tanks and the engine sputtered and lost power. He attempted to restart the engine while descending toward a highway for a forced landing.

During the emergency approach the plane hit a transmission wire, which the pilot did not see until the last minute because of the darkness. The Cessna came down in a field.

The pilot attributed the engine sputtering to undetected water in the fuel system, however, a post-accident examination of the fuel system revealed no contaminants, and operation of the engine showed no mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable cause: A momentary loss of engine power, which led to an emergency descent at night during which the airplane hit a wire.

NTSB Identification: WPR12LA263

This June 2012 accident report is are 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. Aveteran2 says

    I used to ferry new tail wheel’d Cessnas as they had only one qualified test pilot and one demo pilot at the Pawnee Division. No dealers would come out to get them so if you purchased one you had better get it yourself, or it would set for awhile. I never ran them in anything but both tanks and even then they didn’t always feed evenly.
    This looks like a case of “get-there-itis” again. Stored equipment needs to be treated accordingly. Drain the fuel system more than once before you start out. Maybe even the carburetor bowl, too. It just takes patience not ego!

  2. Tom says

    He switched tanks during this his last flight,
    The problem – that tank was dry,
    A wire in his path and it’s night,
    Enough to make us sane pilots cry.

    Could it have been the 3rd class medical?
    That the FAA touts as “king”?
    No, this guys method was just radical,
    Him the Grim Reaper stands ready to sting.

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