Aircraft: Beechcraft Musketeer. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Dayton, Va. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: Before departing, the non-instrument-rated pilot obtained a weather briefing and was advised several times that VFR flight was not recommended due to existing and forecasted instrument meteorological conditions along his intended route of flight. He declined to file a flight plan and took off.
More than two hours after departure, he contacted air traffic control and advised that he was climbing from 9,000 to10,500 feet. Two minutes later, he declared an emergency and advised ATC that he had lost engine power.
The controller provided vectors to nearby airports, attempting to orient the pilot to the airplane’s position relative to the airports so that he could acquire the airports visually. However, the pilot advised that he was “still in the soup” and couldn’t see much of anything. About five minutes later, the airplane crashed into a hillside.
The post-crash examination of the wreckage and engine revealed no pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
The fuel tanks were intact after impact. About one pint of fuel was drained from the left tank and 10 gallons were drained from the right. The fuel selector was found positioned to the right tank. Continuity of the entire fuel system was confirmed.
Disassembly of the gascolator found that it was completely dry, and was absent of debris. At the time of departure, each fuel tank contained 26.1 gallons of usable fuel. According to the pilot operating handbook, the airplane would consume 10.2 gallons per hour at 75% maximum continuous power.
Investigators determined that given the fuel capacity of each tank, continuity of the fuel system, dry fuel system components, and published fuel consumption rates, it is likely the pilot exhausted the fuel supply in the left tank.
Investigators determined it was likely that the engine lost power due to fuel starvation, and the pilot switched the fuel selector to the right tank but was unable to restore engine power before encountering a ridge in IMC.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was his decision to attempt a VFR flight in IMC over mountainous terrain.
NTSB Identification: ERA12FA526
This August 2012 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.