The pilot of the Beech F33A departed on a cross-country flight, but did not visually check the amount of fuel in the main tanks before departure, relying on his fuel gauges, which indicated the left tank was 2/3 full and the right tank was 1/2 full. Both wingtip fuel tanks were empty.
The pilot departed with the fuel selector on the left main tank. He then switched over to the right main tank while en route, but noticed the needle on the fuel gauge was not moving as the flight progressed.
The flight was uneventful and he made an instrument approach into his destination airport. However, he had to execute a missed approach due to low clouds.
During the missed approach procedure he entered visual conditions and asked air traffic control (ATC) if he could maintain visual conditions and circle to land.
As he was turning crosswind, the engine began to run rough and stopped producing power. He tried to re-start the engine twice as he prepared for a forced landing to a closer runway.
He did not have time to switch the fuel selector to the left tank and ended up hitting trees and landing short of the runway threshold at the airport in Fairfield, N.J.
A post-accident examination revealed substantial damage to the firewall and fuselage. The landing gear was also damaged.
Neither the left nor right wing fuel tanks were breached. About 20 ounces of fuel was drained from the right main tank and about 21 gallons of fuel were drained from the left main tank.
Though the pilot said the right fuel gauge was not reading properly, he acknowledged that he should have monitored fuel burn rate over a given period of time versus relying on just the fuel gauge.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to adequately manage the available fuel supply, resulting in fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: ERA16CA203
This June 2016 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.