The pilot departed on the two-hour flight with the fuel quantity gauge of each fuel tank indicating about half full, but did not verify the quantity of fuel present in the tanks prior to the flight.
Approximately 20 minutes from the destination airport, the left fuel tank gauge indicated between empty and one-quarter full, and the right tank gauge indicated one-quarter full.
On the downwind leg of the traffic pattern to the airport in Huntsville, Ala., the engine began to “sputter” and experienced a total loss of power. The pilot moved the fuel selector to the right tank, but engine power was not restored.
He subsequently conducted a forced landing to the grass short of the runway, and the Cessna 172 nosed over and came to rest inverted, resulting in substantial damage to the engine firewall.
A post-accident examination by an FAA inspector revealed that the left fuel tank contained no fuel, and the right tank contained approximately one half of a pint of fuel. The tanks were not damaged during the accident, and there was no evidence of fuel spillage at the scene.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s improper fuel planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a total loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: ERA14CA206
This April 2014 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.