The airline transport pilot was relocating the CubCrafters CC19 to the owner’s private ranch.
He noted that, before the flight, he ordered fuel for the airplane. But when the fuel truck arrived, he checked the fuel levels using the fuel quantity sight gauges inside the airplane and “realized it was full,” so he declined to have the airplane refueled.
He added he did not visually verify the fuel levels in each fuel tank or use a dipstick.
He also told investigators that before the flight, he was dealing with a malfunctioning hangar door when he received a telephone call from work. After the call ended, he conducted his preflight inspection of the airplane and again attempted to close the hangar door.
When he attempted to start the engine, the battery was dead, so he charged it, started the engine, and then took off.
About 45 minutes after departure, during cruise flight over mountainous terrain, the engine began to lose power. As he turned the electric fuel pump on, he noticed a slight increase in power, however shortly after, the engine lost all power.
He initiated an off-airport landing to an open area near Hyrum, Utah. However, when he realized that the airplane would be unable to reach it, he maneuvered toward another suitable landing area.
During the landing, the plane hit trees and terrain before it came to rest upright, which resulted in substantial damage to the right wing and fuselage. The pilot was seriously injured in the crash.
First responders and wreckage recovery company personnel independently confirmed that no fuel was recovered from the wing tanks. Recovery personnel also reported that there was no fuel in the engine inlet fuel line during disassembly.
Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunctions or failures with the engine or fuel system, including the fuel quantity sight gauges, that would have precluded normal operation.
It is possible that, due to the distractions the pilot reported experiencing while preparing for the flight, he did not correctly read the fuel quantity sight gauges during the preflight inspection. It is likely he departed with insufficient fuel onboard to complete the flight, which led to a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper verification of the fuel quantity during the preflight inspection, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent loss of engine power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to a malfunctioning hangar door and a telephone call while preparing for the flight.
NTSB Identification: WPR18LA199
This July 2018 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.