Aircraft: Cessna 140. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Burlington, Wis. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot took off with the fuel selector set to the right fuel tank, which was full of fuel.
About 30 minutes after departure, he made a touch-and-go landing at his destination airport. During the climb out when the airplane was about 100 feet above the runway, the engine lost power. The pilot entered a left turn and attempted to land on an adjacent grass runway, but the airplane came down short of the runway.
The post-accident examination revealed that the left fuel tank was empty and the right fuel tank was full. Examination of the airplane’s fuel selector revealed that the fuel selector indicator handle was improperly installed. When the fuel selector indicator handle was placed in the right fuel tank position, the fuel was actually coming from the left fuel tank.
There was no record in the airplane’s maintenance logbook that indicated replacement of the fuel selector valve, the fuel selector indicator handle, or the fuel selector placard.
A flying club purchased the airplane from a private owner. The private owner reported that he bought the airplane in 1990. The fuel placard that came with the airplane at that time did not comply with the placard found in the airplane’s operations manual.
The previous owner reported that when he was preparing to sell the airplane to the flying club, he decided to make a fuel selector placard that was identical to the one found in the operations manual. He reported that he made the placard and provided it to the mechanic of the flying club so that the mechanic could install it. However, the mechanic at the flying club reported that he did not install the fuel selector placard, and that the previous owner had installed it prior to the airplane being purchased.
Investigators were not able to determine who performed the maintenance on the fuel selector and had improperly installed the fuel selector indicator handle.
Probable cause: The improper installation of the fuel selector indicator handle, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: CEN11LA448
This June 2011 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.