Plane crashes after running out of fuel

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The pilot reported that, during the final approach to the airport in Cleburne, Texas, the Cessna 172’s engine lost power.

Due to homes that were in line with the approach end of the runway, he decided to perform an emergency landing in a field, during which the airplane slid and then came to rest in trees.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing and the pilot sustained minor injuries.

During post-accident examination, an FAA inspector reported that the fuel gauges read zero and that no fuel was found in the right fuel tank and only 10 ounces of fuel were found in the left fuel tank.

Fuel was added to the airplane, and the engine started and operated normally.

He added that he talked to the pilot, who stated he had flown 3.6 hours and performed at least six touch-and-go landings. The pilot also said the airplane usually has a 3.5-hour maximum range at 1,000 feet above ground level at 8 to 9 gallons per hour and that he likely did not properly monitor the engine’s fuel consumption, which led to fuel exhaustion.

He added he had not considered the engine’s fuel burn for touch-and-go landings or headwinds during his preflight planning.

Given the evidence, it is likely the pilot did not ensure that there was sufficient fuel onboard the airplane for the flight and that he did not monitor it properly during the flight, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and the subsequent total loss of engine power.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper preflight fuel planning and in-flight fuel management, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and the subsequent total loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: GAA19CA048

This November 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.

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