The pilot departed on the 40-mile flight with an unknown quantity of fuel onboard the Mooney M20, but he estimated that it had about 10 gallons more than he thought was needed for the flight.
While maneuvering to land at the airport in Georgetown, Del., he increased the engine power twice, but it did not respond.
He anticipated that the plane could land on the airport property, however, it struck wires and terrain short of the runway, resulting in a serious injury.
Seven gallons of fuel were recovered from the 78.6-gallon fuel system, of which three gallons were unusable.
The amount of fuel recovered from each tank could not be determined, and which tank the pilot had selected at the time of the loss of engine power could also not be determined.
However, after the accident, the pilot reported that data from the airplane’s engine monitor revealed that the fuel flow stopped 60 seconds before the propeller stopped.
He added that he probably should have purchased fuel before his departure and that, if he had it to do over, he would.
After replacing the damaged propeller with a slave propeller and adding five gallons of fuel in each wing tank, an engine test run was conducted. The engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously without interruption throughout the test.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s improper preflight planning and in-flight fuel management, which resulted in fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power. Also causal to the accident was the pilot’s failure to see and avoid the wires on the airport boundary.
NTSB Identification: ERA14LA242
This May 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.