This January 2009 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: Siai-Marchetti SF-260C. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Santa Monica, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The main wing tanks had been topped off about a week before the accident by another pilot. The accident pilot had about 20 hours of flight time in the same make and model airplane. The approved airplane flight manual for the airplane indicated that the selector valve should be positioned on the left wing tank for starting. Both the manual and the placards on the instrument panel stated that the use of “Tip Tank” and “Both Tips” is limited to level flight only. The pilot reported that he taxied the airplane from the hangar with the fuel selector valve in the right tip fuel tank position per standard operating procedures for the airplane. He said a small amount of fuel was in the tip tank, however, the exact quantity was not determined.
Witnesses said the airplane appeared to climb normally until reaching an altitude between 200 to 400 feet AGL when the engine stopped. The airplane turned right, entered a spin, then hit the runway.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the fuel tank selector valve handle appeared to be in the right tip fuel tank position. Investigators determined that the fuel tank selector was probably moved out of the selector detent as a result of the crushing forces and structural deformation around the selector handle during the impact sequence. The fuel tank selector valve assembly was disassembled and found to be operational. The airframe and engine were examined with no mechanical anomalies identified.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to select the proper fuel tank for takeoff, which resulted in a loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control while attempting a return to runway maneuver.
For more information: NTSB.gov