The pilot of the Beech Debonair intended to land at the airport in San Manuel, Ariz., in order to refuel.
He performed a 360° descending left turn to join the downwind leg of the pattern. As he began the turn to final he attempted to add power, but the engine did not respond.
He turned on the auxiliary fuel pump but it was not enough to restore engine power and the airplane made a hard landing short of the runway. He was seriously injured and the airplane was substantially damaged.
As the left fuel tank quantity indicator gauge was inoperative, the pilot could not provide an accurate assessment of its quantity. It was noted that the left fuel tank was selected during the entire approach sequence, and although 10 gallons of fuel were present in that tank after the accident, it had been breached, so an accurate assessment of the quantity before the accident could not be made. The right tank contained 12 gallons of fuel.
The pilot surmised that fuel flow may have been restored if he had switched to the right fuel tank when the engine lost power, as was required by the emergency checklist.
The Pilot’s Operating Handbook required that the fuel tanks contain a minimum of 10 gallons each to perform basic aerobatic maneuvers. Investigators determined that the sweeping nature of the 360° descending left turn prior to landing may have forced fuel away from the tanks’ supply line, resulting in fuel starvation. The engine monitor revealed that power was actually lost during that turn rather than on the base leg, further supporting this theory.
Additionally, residual quantities of fuel were noted in the remaining fuel supply lines to the firewall, and no fuel was present in the lines forward of the engine driven fuel pump, bolstering the likelihood that fuel starvation occurred.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident as a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation during the landing approach. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to follow the emergency checklist and switch tanks.
NTSB Identification: WPR13LA190
This April 2013 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.