Improper fuel management dramatically cuts short a flight

General Aviation News has recently noted an interesting June 2008 accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board in the USA about a Cessna 310 crash that was caused by improper fuel management. According to the report:

The retired airline pilot told NTSB personnel that he had flown general aviation airplanes, having logged more than 18,000 hours, including about 200 hours in the accident make and model airplane. Historical fuel records associated Cessna 310 revealed the average fuel burn was approximately 35.09 gallons-per-hour. The actual fuel load for the accident flight was 119 pounds, instead of the 280 pounds reported by the pilot, who did not visually inspect the fuel tanks. Rather, he relied on gauge readings and his fuel calculations. Because of the discrepancy in the amount of fuel on board, the aircraft took off with fuel for only about 34 minutes of flight at typical power settings.

When the aircraft was over the Gulf of Mexico, it experienced a total loss of power in both engines. However and before ditching the aircraft, the pilot noted that the left and right fuel quantity gauges indicated 70 and 100 pounds respectively. Nevertheless and after the aircraft was recovered, a total of only 14 ounces of fuel were drained from the left main fuel tank and no fuel was found in the right main fuel tank.

Hence, the NTSB concluded that the pilot’s inaccurate fuel consumption calculations resulted “in a total loss of engine power to both engines due to fuel exhaustion.” The accident also resulted in one serious injury, three minor injuries and substantial damage to the aircraft.

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