On Fuel Failures
the 16 months since fuel related incidents were last discussed
in Callback (#283 April, 2003), 47 reports
have been submitted to ASRS regarding preventable, fuel related,
forced landings. The NTSB database contains a similar number of
forced landings caused by fuel problems for the same period. The
NTSB events were classified as accidents due to significant damage
and/or injury and therefore were separate from the ones reported
to monitor actual fuel usage, a factor cited in many fuel starvation
incidents, was covered in Callback #283. Two additional factors
that recur in both the ASRS and the NTSB reports are:
Failure to select the appropriate fuel tank
Failure to visually confirm the fuel on board during preflight
following ASRS reports present some lessons learned regarding
these two additional "fuel failures."
Tank Tip: Select the Full One
selecting the wrong tank, this PA32 pilot found himself in a field
with fuel to spare.
airplane has four fuel tanks. Three tanks were full and one
was empty. I did not fill the right tip tank because of [a fuel
transfer problem]. After takeoff, the airplane was heavy on
the left side and required a lot of right aileron. I decided
to burn some fuel from the left tip tank to balance the airplane.
I moved the fuel selector valve to the empty tank instead of
the full tank. The engine stopped and I started the emergency
procedures. I checked the fuel pump and magnetos, called ATC,
and looked for a place to land. We made a successful landing
in a field. I made a pilot error by not checking the fuel selector
valve and also by flying the aircraft with a known fuel problem
in the right tip tank....
Selection Suggestion: Avoid the Empty Tank
BE35 pilot also inadvertently made a wrong selection and then
failed to check the fuel selector position. Luckily, a second
pilot was available to land the aircraft while an attempt was
being made to pump some life back into the engine.
Prior to entering the traffic pattern
for landing on Runway 17, I thought I had selected the fullest
fuel tank. On the turn from base to final the engine lost power.
I thought I selected the correct tank, but I was wrong. I continued
to pump the wobble pump trying to get fuel to the engine to
no avail. While I was pumping, the other aircraft occupant was
flying the airplane and was able to land the aircraft safely
in a field with the gear up. No major damage or injuries occurred.
this C150 pilot learned, relying on fuel gauge indications alone
can lead to an unexpected arrival... down on the farm.
plane had been flown previous to our flight, but the fuel gauges
showed over 3/8 of a tank in the left tank and 1/2 tank on the
right gauge. I flew to a couple of neighboring airports for
touch and goes.... After maneuvering in the area of the second
airport, I headed for home. At each airport, I noted the fuel
level. I could have stopped at an airport that I flew right
over, but the right gauge showed 3/8 of a tank and the left
indicated slightly less than 1/8 of a tank. I was 30 minutes
from home...and could see no problem, based on the gauges. 15
minutes later, at 2,500 feet AGL, the engine quit. I attempted
a restart with no success.... I landed in a large farm field
with no damage to the plane. Both tanks were found to be empty.
The incident was caused by relying on the fuel gauges instead
of checking fuel levels visually and not confirming the amount
of flying done previous to my flight.
the PA28 pilot who submitted the next report did check the time
logged on the previous flight, the aircraft fuel log was not checked.
The gauges and a visual estimate of fuel remaining proved inaccurate.
If the tanks are not full, a visual estimate of the fuel remaining
is just that, an estimate.
visual inspection of the tanks, I estimated that there was more
than three hours of fuel remaining. The logbook showed that
the previous flight was 2.2 hours. With this in mind and useful
fuel available of 5.5 hours for full tanks, I assumed that 3.3
hours of fuel remained. After start-up, the fuel gauges showed
1/2 full in both tanks. I was still thinking there was at least
three hours of fuel available. Maximum time of the flight was
figured at two hours. After 1.4 hours of flying, the engine
quit and a successful landing was made in a farmer's field with
no injuries or damage to the plane.... After reviewing the logbook
on the fueling of the airplane, it showed that the plane had
not been fueled the morning of the incident. Checking the fuel
logbook with the plane's logbook, it was determined that the
useful fuel on board the plane was only one hour....
C182 pilot filled the tanks himself and, therefore, did not see
any need to bother with a visual check. This report to ASRS points
out why a pilot should always confirm the fuel on board.
landing was made in a field due to engine failure. The day before
this flight, I had filled the aircraft fuel tanks. When I arrived
at the airport I did not visually check the tanks. I later learned
that a local mechanic had done a weight and balance on the aircraft
the previous evening. In doing so, he drained all fuel from
the aircraft. He did not put the fuel back in the tanks when
he was done. The aircraft fuel gauges were so far past empty
that they appeared to show full.
better prepared a pilot and his or her aircraft are before flight,
the safer that flight will be. Since a thorough preflight is a
vital step in that preparation, these recent ASRS reports are
offered as valuable lessons on avoiding preflight pitfalls.
Casual Cap Check
fuel cap incidents are reported to ASRS on a fairly regular basis.
Some aircraft, such as the C182 in this report, may require a
ladder to enable a hands-on preflight of the fuel cap security.
reaching 1,300 feet, I noticed fuel leaking out of my left wing.
I then glanced at the fuel gauge and saw that my fuel level
was dropping rapidly. I notified Departure [Control] and they
gave me priority back to [departure airport]. I landed without
incident. When I checked to find what the problem was, I found
that a fuel cap had come undone. I had failed to check the tightness
of the fuel caps prior to departure. During preflight, I checked
to see if the caps were on, but I didn't get on a ladder to
check the tightness. This incident could have been prevented
if I had done a complete preflight and checked the fuel caps.
Flying Fashion: Accessoires pour l'empennage
his wife's help, this pilot gave new meaning to the term "flight
preflighted the aircraft and all was well. Fuel and oil were
full, chocks out, tie downs removed, and everything seemed ready.
My wife and I then loaded several bags and other items and I
seated myself in the cockpit while she departed for home. The
taxi out and run-up were normal.... The takeoff roll seemed
OK, but upon rotation, there seemed to be a slight vibration
in the controls. Then as I was climbing through 1,100 feet,
the vibration got slightly worse, which didn't seem normal to
me, and I elected to return to [departure airport]. I informed
Tower that I had some sort of control problem and needed to
return. Landing clearance was granted at once. The landing was
uneventful, but as I was taxiing in Tower informed me that there
seemed to be something on my right horizontal stabilizer (not
visible to the tower on taxi out and takeoff because it was
on the opposite side). I taxied to the run-up area and someone
from the airport staff removed my jacket from the stabilizer
and handed it to me.
jacket had been set down on the stabilizer by my wife and, in
the loading process, simply forgotten. I boarded the aircraft
from the side opposite the jacket, so I didn't see it either.
The vibration in the controls was the jacket flapping in the
wind, but I had no way of knowing that and assumed the worst.
Had I elected to continue the flight, the jacket would most
likely have blown off, but the possibility exists that something
worse could have happened and I could have had a severe control
problem. The decision to return upon sensing that something
was not normal was probably a good one....
the future I will load first and then perform the preflight.
Bad to Worse
is often cited as a factor when safety is compromised. In the
following report, the result of a C172 pilot's hasty preflight
was bad, but his solution was worse.
airshow was scheduled to begin in about a half-hour. I was told
by Ground Control that I had two minutes to get into position
and take off. In my hurry to comply with Ground Control I forgot
to remove the tow bar from the front of the plane and began
to taxi. The problem was pointed out to me by people [along
the taxi route]. I compounded the problem by removing the tow
bar without stopping the engine. I was lucky not to be injured!
learned: Do not let anyone or anything cause you to hurry. That
is when mistakes happen that can lead to accidents.
a Little Light and Avoid the Runaround
B737 Captain submitted these observations on the proper equipment
required for a proper preflight.
flight was running extremely late when my reserve First Officer
arrived at the aircraft. I decided to do the walk-around so
that he could get settled in the cockpit. I asked to borrow
his flashlight and he handed me a penlight. He told me that
it was the only flashlight he carried.... As a Captain I am
very uncomfortable with the thought of a preflight or postflight
check being accomplished in the dark with a penlight.... We
are responsible for ensuring the airworthiness of the aircraft...and
this responsibility requires that a proper preflight be accomplished....
the subject of preflight and postflight [inspections], the weather
is turning colder back east, but is still warm in the west.
Pilots need to remember to bring appropriate clothing (i.e.
a warm jacket) to ensure that a cold weather walk-around does
not become a run-around.