The private pilot had spent several hours flying practice instrument approaches to various airports. He stated he became distracted and failed to monitor the Cirrus SR22’s fuel state.
His normal habit was to alternate between the airplane’s wing fuel tanks every 30 minutes, however he did not perform this action during the last hour of the flight.
Shortly after takeoff to return to his home airport in night visual meteorological conditions, the airplane’s engine experienced a total loss of power.
The pilot turned back toward the departure airport, but the plane did not have sufficient altitude to complete a power-off glide to the runway. The pilot did not switch the airplane’s fuel selector following the loss of engine power.
About 344′ above ground level, he activated the airplane’s airframe parachute system. The low-altitude activation resulted in an incomplete deployment of the parachute and a nose-down impact with the ground near Watertown, Wisconsin. The pilot sustained serious injuries in the crash.
Post-accident examination revealed that the airplane’s fuel system was intact. The right wing tank, which was selected, contained about 21 ounces of fuel, and the left wing tank contained about 22 gallons. Therefore, the total loss of engine power was consistent with fuel starvation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper in-flight fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to switch fuel tanks after the engine lost power, and his delayed decision to activate the airframe parachute system, which resulted in his serious injury due to incomplete deployment of the system and the airplane’s improper attitude upon touchdown.
NTSB Identification: CEN16LA069
This December 2015 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.