Aircraft: Piper Tomahawk. Injuries: None. Location: Centerburg, Ohio. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot visually checked the fuel level in the tanks. The left tank contained about six gallons and the right tank contained about 10 gallons.
Shortly after takeoff, he switched the fuel selector from the left tank, which was now indicating one to two gallons of fuel, to the right tank.
The flight continued for another 50 minutes but during the descent to the destination airport, the engine lost power. The right fuel quantity indicator was indicating five gallons at that point. The pilot switched the fuel selector back to the left tank in an attempt to restart the engine and the fuel indication in the right tank dropped to zero. The pilot made a force landing in a corn field. The nose-gear collapsed during the landing, which resulted in substantial damage to the firewall.
A post-accident inspection revealed that both fuel tanks were empty and a small amount of fuel remained in the gascolator. The reason for the discrepancy of the right fuel quantity indicator versus the amount of fuel in the right fuel tank was not determined.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper pre-flight planning and failure to ensure that there was an adequate fuel supply on board to complete the flight, which resulted in fuel exhaustion. Contributing to the accident was the malfunction of the fuel quantity indicator.
NTSB Identification: CEN12LA007
This October 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.