This October 2008 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.
Aircraft: Cessna 150. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Iowa City, Iowa. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot reported that he did not visually check the fuel level prior to flight, but had relied on the fuel gauge indications for fuel management. He planned a local night flight to an airport approximately 16 miles north-northwest of the departure airport. Prior to takeoff he noted that the fuel gauges indicated nearly full on the left fuel tank and about a third full on the right fuel tank. He took off and headed for an intermediate airport to do practice ILS approaches. The pilot stated that before the return flight, the fuel gauges indicated a little less than full on the left fuel tank and about 1/4 full on the right fuel tank. The pilot selected a straight-in approach. However, about 3/4 of a mile from the runway the engine began to lose power. The pilot’s efforts to restore full power were not successful. The pilot was unable to glide to the runway. The left wing struck a tree during the approach.
The post-accident inspection revealed that the fuel tanks did not appear to be breached, and that only a small amount of fuel remained in the fuel tanks. A review of the airplane flight log and fueling records revealed that it had been flown 3.4 hours since it was last refueled. Manufacturer’s documentation noted that the airplane’s fuel capacity was 26 gallons total, with 22.5 gallons usable. Fuel consumption ranged from 4.9 gallons per hour at 65% power to 5.9 gph at 78% power at 2,000 feet pressure altitude. Approximately an additional 0.8 gallons are consumed during start-up, taxi, and takeoff. The pilot reported that he had not adjusted the mixture during cruise.
Probable cause: Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot’s failure to visually verify that sufficient fuel was on-board prior to flight.
For more information: NTSB.gov