Do you know when your fuel selector valve is turned off?

General Aviation News will often reprint accident report excerpts from the US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), including a February 2010 accident report about an incident involving a Beech Musketeer in Winter Haven (Florida) that led to two fatalities.

Specifically, a private pilot had more than 468 hours but no flight time between November 22, 2003 and October 4, 2008 and then 5.7 hours in the Musketeer between December 6, 2009 and December 16, 2009.

On the day of the fatal incident, the pilot took off but the aircraft engine lost power on the initial climb, stalled and then crashed. An examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical malfunctions but the fuel selector was observed to be in the off range.

Further testing of the fuel selector revealed no other mechanical problems and the evidence from the crash suggested it was in the off position after takeoff.

However, the mechanic who performed the aircraft’s last 100-hour inspection six months before the fatal accident apparently missed the fact that the fuel selector valve guard and stop lacked the required markings that clearly depict its off range. According to Airworthiness Directive (AD) 85-05-02, there should have been a clear label or decal to indicate when the fuel selector was on or off.

Hence, the probable cause of the accident was the pilot having left the fuel selector valve off during takeoff along with his failure to maintain adequate airspeed after a loss of engine power. A contributory factor was the mechanic’s failure to spot the lack of markings on the fuel selector stop and fuel selector valve.

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