The commercial pilot and passenger planned to complete touch-and-go takeoffs and landings for the pilot to build time in the Bellanca.
The pilot reported that the main fuel tanks were full before takeoff and that he began the flight with the left main fuel tank selected.
After the final touch-and go, while on the upwind leg of the traffic pattern and 700′ above ground level, the engine experienced a total loss of power.
The pilot was unable to troubleshoot the loss of power and made a forced landing to a field near Watkins, Colorado, where the airplane hit a ditch and came to rest upright. Both the pilot and passenger were seriously injured in the crash.
The airplane’s owner reported that he flew the airplane the day before the accident for about an hour, during which the engine performed normally with no anomalies noted. He added that no fuel had been added to the tanks in the previous 2.5 flight hours.
There was no evidence of additional fuel being added to the airplane after the owner’s flight and before the accident flight.
A post-accident examination of the airplane revealed that the left main fuel tank was empty. The right main tank and the two auxiliary tanks contained a combined 45 gallons of fuel. The fuel selector was found positioned to the left main fuel tank.
Although the amount of fuel onboard the airplane at the beginning of the flight could not be determined, it is likely that the pilot kept the fuel selector selected to the left main fuel tank throughout the entire flight, and the loss of engine power occurred when the tank was exhausted of usable fuel.
An engine test run did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal engine operation.
The electric fuel boost pump was inoperative for undetermined reasons and a replacement fuel boost pump was installed only for the purposes of starting the engine. Since the electric boost pump is not required for engine operation in flight, its inoperative state would not have contributed to the loss of engine power. The fuel selector valves were free of obstructions.
Probable cause: The pilot’s in-flight fuel mismanagement, which resulted in fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power.
NTSB Identification: CEN17LA220
This June 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.