The pilot returned to a private airstrip near Orangeville, Illinois, after a 35-minute flight and planned to perform a touch-and-go. However, after takeoff and while climbing, the Zodiac’s engine started to run rough and then lost power.
The pilot selected a field for the forced landing, during which the airplane hit terrain hard and then came to rest upright. The pilot was seriously injured in the crash.
An examination of the airplane revealed that the right fuel tank appeared empty, that fuel was visible in the left tank, and that only residual fuel remained in the header tank, which was breached during the accident.
A fuel pump circuit breaker was found open, and the fuel selector was found in the “off” position.
The examination of the engine revealed that the engine’s three-bladed propeller did not exhibit rotational signatures, indicating that the engine was not running at impact.
The engine was rotated by hand, and thumb compression and continuity through the drive/valve train were established.
Both carburetor float bowls were removed and were empty of fuel. No contaminants or obstructions were noted.
The gascolator was removed, and only a small amount of fuel was found. The fuel pump was removed, and only minimal fuel was found.
An engine test run was then conducted at power, and the engine ran for several minutes with no anomalies noted.
The fuel source was removed to see how long the engine would run on the residual fuel in the system. Within several minutes, the engine began running rough and then lost power.
An examination of the carburetor float bowls, fuel pump, and gascolator revealed an absence of fuel in each, similar to their condition before the engine test run. The accident is consistent with fuel starvation, likely due to the fuel not transferring from a wing fuel tank to the header tank, either due to an open fuel pump circuit or because the right wing fuel tank was empty.
Probable cause: The total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: CEN17LA180
This May 2017 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.