Poor fuel planning leads to a Cessna crash

General Aviation News has recently published an except from a 2009 National Transportation Safety Board about an incident involving a Cessna 150 in Columbia, Mississippi, that ran out of fuel just short of the runway. The pilot, who had a private pilot certificate with 858 hours of flight experience and 12 hours in the Cessna 150, had flown a two hour cross-country flight with stops at two airports.

While at the second stop, the pilot added 1o gallons of fuel and noted that the fuel quantity in the aircraft’s tanks was nearly 1 and 1/2 inches from the top of the tank. He then flew another hour, dropped of his passenger and then departed for home without refueling nor did he look inside the fuel tanks to confirm what his fuel gauges were telling him.  

The accident report then noted:

The pilot said he relied mostly on his fuel gauges, which indicated half-full and three-quarters full, to confirm that he had adequate fuel for the flight. While on final approach to the home airport, the airplane’s engine lost power and the pilot performed a forced landing.

Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed that the right fuel tank was empty and the left fuel tank contained only a trace of fuel. Less than a pint of fuel was drained from the gascolator.

The investigation found no evidence of mechanical failures and the pilot noted that he conducted all of the flights with the mixture control in the full rich position. However, the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the aircraft instructs pilot to lean the fuel mixture in order to have better fuel economy while in cruise flight.

Hence, the cause of the accident was ruled as a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion that resulted from the pilot’s inadequate preflight plus in-flight fuel planning.

In other words, always make sure that you do adequate pre and in-flight fuel planning and make sure that you also read the Pilot’s Operating Handbook to ensure that you use the right fuel mixture for maximum fuel economy while flying.

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