This July 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: Beech C35. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: Weslaco, Texas. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: Both the left and right main tanks and the left tip tank were filled with fuel prior to departure. When attempting to fuel the right tip tank, the fuel nozzle broke loose and fell into the tip tank. The pilot was unable to retrieve the broken nozzle, and no fuel was added to the right tip tank. He took off with a fuel imbalance between the tanks.
The pilot flying occupied the right seat and a student pilot occupied the left seat. During flight, the fuel imbalance resulted in a left rolling tendency. The pilot attempted to land at the nearest airfield, and configured the airplane with 10° of flaps, which was contrary to the STC. During the landing, the airplane bounced and began to drift to the left towards the edge of the runway. He performed a go-around and elected to turn left to enter the downwind pattern. During the left turn, he lost control of the airplane and crashed.
According to the student pilot who survived the accident, the pilot was flying. Investigators were not able to tell whether the flight was instructional, and it could not be conclusively determined which occupant was at the controls at the time of the accident. However, fracture and bending signatures on the throw-over style control column and hub were consistent with the controls being positioned toward the left seat during the accident sequence.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control while operating with a fuel imbalance.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: CEN09FA405