Aircraft: Cirrus SR20. Injuries: None. Location: Parker, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: Before the first flight of the day, the pilot visually checked the airplane’s fuel quantity through the fuel tank filler necks, noting what he believed to be full tanks. He subsequently checked the fuel gauges, which indicated that both wing tanks were less than half full.
Surmising that the gauges were faulty, he departed on a short flight to a local airport to pick up a passenger, then they departed for a cross-country flight. He did not refuel the airplane before the second departure.
En route and near an airport, one of the tanks ran out of fuel. The engine lost power; however, rather than landing, the pilot switched fuel tanks and continued the flight. The other tank ran out of fuel a short time later, and the pilot performed a forced landing to a rocky outcropping, where the airplane sustained substantial damage. The Cirrus had been in the air for 90 minutes.
Subsequent examination of the airframe revealed that both fuel tanks were empty, and neither the engine nor airframe exhibited indications of a fuel leak. Examination of recorded data recovered from the airplane’s flight displays revealed that its fuel consumption was appropriate for the flight profile.
Problem cause: The pilot’s failure to perform an adequate preflight inspection, which resulted in inadequate fuel for the flight and the subsequent fuel exhaustion and a total loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to land the airplane at the first indication of low fuel.
NTSB Identification: WPR13LA011
This October 2012 accident report is are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.