The pilot reported that the Grumman American Corp. AA-1C was last refueled and flown about a month before the day of the accident.
He added that, on the morning of the accident, he believed the plane still had about 17 to 18 gallons of fuel for the flight.
He mentioned that the airplane’s fuel float gauges were not accurate, so he looked inside of the left fuel tank from the filler cap and observed fuel. He did not check the right fuel tank because the style of tank restricted his view of any fuel.
He departed the airport with the left fuel tank selected. After practicing standard maneuvers, the engine hesitated for a second.
He switched to the right fuel tank, which resolved the issue, but he turned back toward the airport.
About a minute later, he switched to the left fuel tank and continued to fly at full power, which led him to believe fuel was in that tank. One to two minutes later, he switched back to the right fuel tank and climbed to 8,000′, circled the town once, and then proceeded back toward the airport. The engine then suddenly lost power.
The pilot attempted emergency procedures and troubleshooting to no avail. He found a suitable field for the emergency landing near Hemet, California. During the landing roll on the soft, dry, and rocky terrain, the airplane nosed over and then came to rest inverted.
Recovery personnel removed a small amount of fuel from the left auxiliary fuel tank, but the right auxiliary fuel tank and the main fuel tanks were empty.
There were no observable breaches in the fuel tanks nor smell of fuel at the accident site.
Given the pilot knew the airplane’s fuel gauges were not accurate, he should have ensured that the airplane had sufficient fuel for the flight. His failure to do so led to the subsequent exhaustion of the fuel supply and total loss of engine power.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to ensure that sufficient fuel was available for the flight, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.
NTSB Identification: WPR17LA018
This November 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.