The pilot reported that he departed for a parachute jump flight with 12 gallons of fuel onboard. He said that, after the parachute jumpers exited the Cessna 182 about 10,500′ mean sea level (msl), he initiated a left spiraling descent back to the airport in San Martin, California.
He added that he “heard and felt the engine start [to] quiet down as if it was shutting down.”
He then began to make right descending turns and verified that the fuel selector was in the “both” position.
He added that the cylinder head temperature was decreasing, so he switched back to left descending turns and that the “fuel starvation due to banking happened two more times.”
The pilot reported that he entered left downwind about 4,000′ msl, pushed the throttle and mixture controls full forward, and determined that the “engine wasn’t producing much power.”
He added that, during short final, he realized the airplane was too low, so he landed on a highway “on-ramp.”
During the forced landing, the airplane hit a guard rail and a post.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings.
The pilot reported that he “suspected engine power loss due to fuel exhaustion.”
During a post-accident examination, the FAA inspector drained about 12 gallons of fuel from both wing tanks and the gascolator.
In the Description section of the Cessna 182A Owner’s Manual, it states that there are 1.5 gallons of unusable fuel per fuel tank (3 gallons) and that, when not in level flight, there are an additional 3.5 gallons of unusable fuel per fuel tank (10 gallons).
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to attain a proper glidepath on approach for landing, which resulted in an impact with a guard rail and post. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to ensure that sufficient fuel was onboard for nonlevel flight, which resulted in fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: GAA17CA367
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.