Improper fuel management leads to fuel starvation and forced landing

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A pilot was injured and a passenger seriously injured when the Beech A36 plane lost engine power during a practice instrument approach to Fort Worth Meacham International Airport (KFTW) in Texas.

The airline transport certificated pilot made an off-airport forced landing in a field five miles southeast of KFTW. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the forward portion of the fuselage.

The pilot told an FAA inspector that before departing the airport in Angel Fire, N.M., both fuel tanks were 3/4 full. He said he maintained fuel balance by switching between the left and right tanks “several times” during the flight.

As he approached the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) TCA (Terminal Control Area), he requested and received vectors for a practice ILS (instrument landing system) Runway 34 approach to KFTW. Following slower traffic, he requested termination of the approach and said he would continue on to KGKY.

Shortly after climbing to 1,500 feet, the engine lost power. The pilot switched the fuel selector “to the other tank” and attempted to restart the engine, but to no avail.

He failed to turn on the electric boost pump (as required in the emergency checklist) and that, because of the airplane’s low altitude, he did not have time to refer to the emergency checklist. He lowered the landing gear, but elected not to lower the flaps for landing. The airplane touched down on soft earth, the nose gear collapsed, and the airplane nosed down.

An FAA inspector inspected the wreckage and sumped clear, bright fuel from the airplane’s left fuel tank that appeared to be free of contaminants. The fuel gauges indicated slightly more than 1/4 full in the left fuel tank, but the right tank was empty.

Visual inspection of the tanks revealed a small, unknown fuel quantity in the left tank and the right fuel tank was empty. The fuel selector was positioned on the left tank.

Probable Cause: The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in fuel starvation and a loss of engine power.

NTSB Identification: 98908

This January 2019 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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