This June 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: Cessna 205. Injuries: 2 Minor. Location: Porterdale, Ga. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: On the day of the accident the pilot checked the weather and departed with a passenger for a cross-country flight. During a preflight inspection on the day before the accident, he noticed that the seals on the fuel caps were worn. He replaced them with fuel caps borrowed from a friend’s airplane, a Cessna 182. Following the preflight, he departed for a local airport for fuel and then returned.
Upon his return he had noticed gas streaking on top of the wings, but assumed that the fuel cap vents had discharged some fuel. While en route, the engine “coughed,” so he turned on the fuel boost pump and switched the fuel selector from the right to the left tank, after which the engine restarted. The pilot noted that the fuel gauges were fluctuating in-flight between empty and one-quarter tank. Believing that he had sufficient fuel on board, he made a descent and continued towards his destination. Minutes later the engine quit. The pilot switched the fuel selector from the left tank to the right tank, and made a turn for a local airport. Realizing that he would not make it to the airport, he elected to land in a field. The airplane touched down on rough terrain and the nose strut sheared off. The airplane then dug into the ground and flipped over. The propeller, landing gear, wings, fuselage, and empennage incurred damage.
The pilot stated that he had replaced the seals in the borrowed caps in order to prevent water from leaking into the fuel, but that the new seals did not fit as tightly and that fuel must have been “sucked” out of the tanks.
Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the pilot’s use of improper fuel caps. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s selection of an unsuitable area for landing.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB identification: ERA09CA366.