Sunday, March 10, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Cessna 172G Skyhawk, N3984L; accident occurred November 01, 2018 near Cleburne Regional Airport (KCPT), Johnson County, Texas

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Irving, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Cleburne, TX
Accident Number: GAA19CA048
Date & Time: 11/01/2018, 1400 CDT
Registration: N3984L
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The pilot reported that, during the final approach to the destination airport, the 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.

The pilot reported that he had not considered the engine's fuel burn for touch-and-go landings or headwinds during his preflight planning. During postaccident examination, a Federal Aviation Administration 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, and he stated that he had flown 3.6 hours and performed at least six touch-and-go landings. The pilot also stated that the airplane usually has a 3.5-hour maximum range at 1,000 ft 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. 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 and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
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. 


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)
Fuel - Fluid management (Cause)

Personnel issues
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern final
Fuel exhaustion
Loss of engine power (total)

Off-field or emergency landing
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 25, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/20/2018
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/26/2018
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 62 hours (Total, all aircraft), 62 hours (Total, this make and model), 22 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 41 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 20 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N3984L
Model/Series: 172 G
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17254153
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2500 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-C
Registered Owner: Rick L. Hazen
Rated Power: 145 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCPT, 854 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1915 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 227°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 5000 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 11 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 360°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point:  Mineral Wells, TX (MWL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:  None
Destination: Cleburne, TX (CPT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1330 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 854 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 33
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5697 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing; Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  32.355833, -97.431667 (est)


  1. Ignorant stuff like this is why my (our) aviation insurance premiums are through the roof.

  2. You’re right, but what else is new. However, new pilot did admit he made a mistake, which is admirable based on reading a majority of these reports of accidents involving experienced and occupational pilots with multiple ratings and many more hours.


  3. You have a truthful point.

    I have unfortunately run into a few rated pilots who are so sociopathic that they totally refuse, will not, and still to this day refuse to admit they did anything wrong when the physical evidence is overwhelming in contrast to what they said occurred. They think you are wrong for confronting them (how dare you).

    Most of the time their wrongdoing does not come to light until their wrongdoing has already led to bent metal, injuries, lawsuits and death. The financial loss and bad press to general aviation affects us all.

    You are right, this pilot fess'd up. Credit is due but metal is still bent.

    But, if I may kindly prevail on a sore sticking point, I am concerned that [all] pilots generally have at least [two] fuel gauges right in front of them that tell the truth about how much time they have remaining in the air. 91.205 reminds us these must be working before flight. We have even read accounts of passengers reminding the pilot in command "do we have enough fuel?"

    To refuse to, or neglect an occasional glance at fuel remaining is absolutely life-threatening. One can develop a fuel leak in flight too (been there) so flight planning may still not be your best guarantee of LANDING WITH 1 HOUR RESERVE. What a novel idea.

    Now, I am not a Flight Instructor but, if I had a student who endangered themselves by failure to perform the most simple actions of fuel (and engine) management I think it would be advisable to re-think my methods of flight instructing.

    Accountability is often not a 1 person show.

  4. That makes perfect sense. Glad you took time to put those thoughts together.