Monday, May 27, 2019

Fuel Starvation: Cessna 140, N89864, fatal accident occurred May 22, 2018 at Spruce Creek Airport (7FL6), Daytona Beach, Volusia County, Florida

Nandish (Dish) Patel
Pilot-Rated Passenger

Chase Zinn 

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:  

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida
Textron; Wichita, Kansas 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Daytona Beach, FL
Accident Number: ERA18FA152
Date & Time: 05/22/2018, 1930 EDT
Registration: N89864
Aircraft: CESSNA 140
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 22, 2018, about 1930 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 140, N89864, was destroyed when it impacted terrain at Spruce Creek Airport (7FL6), Daytona Beach, Florida. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the pilot-rated passenger was fatally injured. The airplane was privately owned, and the pilot was operating the airplane as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.

A friend of the accident pilot reported that he flew in the accident airplane with the pilot 3 days before the accident. Before departing on that flight, the pilot sumped the airplane's fuel tanks several times to remove water. He flew again with the accident pilot on the morning of the accident to a nearby airport to get breakfast. He reported that the pilot did not fuel the airplane before or after their flight.

Another friend of the pilot reported that the accident pilot arrived at the airport about 1910 on the day of the accident and began a preflight inspection of the accident airplane. The friend spoke with the pilot as he performed the inspection and stated that the pilot showed him a sump bottle "full of water" and joked with him about whether he needed to sump the fuel tank more than once. The pilot then returned to the right wing to continue sumping the fuel tank. The friend subsequently departed the airport and did not witness the accident.

A witness, located near the end of the runway 6, observed the airplane perform three touch-and-go landings on runway 6. During the third touch-and-go, the airplane reached an altitude about 200 to 300 ft above ground level when the engine "sputtered," revved up, sputtered a second time, and then lost all power. He further stated that the airplane then made a left turn like it was returning to the runway. During the left turn, the airplane descended steeply and impacted the ground.

Spruce Creek Airport was privately-owned and operated as part of a residential, "fly-in" community. Residences and trees were present around the majority of the runway, including about 800 ft from the departure end of runway 6.

Due to his injuries, the pilot did not recall the flight. 

Chase Zinn 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 23, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/29/2017
Occupational Pilot:No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/28/2017
Flight Time: 735.3 hours (Total, all aircraft), 46.7 hours (Total, this make and model), 206 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 62.4 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Pilot-Rated Passenger Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 22, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/22/2014
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  0 hours (Total, all aircraft), 0 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multi-engine land and instrument airplane. He held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single- and multi-engine and instrument airplane. He held a Federal Aviation Administration first-class medical certificate issued August 29, 2017. At the time of the accident, the pilot had 735 total hours of flight experience, with 47 hours in the accident airplane make and model. 


Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N89864
Model/Series: 140 UNDESIGNATED
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1946
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 8909
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 09/29/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1451 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 62 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3473.79 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-200A
Registered Owner: SAVAGE JAMES B
Rated Power: 100 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The two-seat, high-wing, tailwheel-equipped airplane was manufactured in 1946. It was powered by a Continental O-200-A, 100-horsepower engine equipped with a McCauley two-blade fixed-pitch propeller. The last annual inspection was completed on September 29, 2017. At the time of the accident, the airframe total time was 3,473.79 hours; the airplane had accrued 62 hours since the most recent annual inspection, and the engine had accrued 565 hours since major overhaul.

The airplane was equipped with two 12.5-gallon fuel tanks from which fuel is gravity-fed to the engine. The fuel pick-up line was located mid-tank.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KEVB, 10 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2350 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 111°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3400 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 22°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Daytona Beach, FL (7FL6)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Daytona Beach, FL (7FL6)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1930 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The 1950 recorded weather at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport (EVB), New Smyrna Beach, Florida, located 5 miles southeast of the accident site, included calm wind; 10 statute miles visibility; a broken cloud ceiling at 3,400 ft; temperature 24°C; dew point 22°C; altimeter 30.08 inches of mercury.

Airport Information

Airport: SPRUCE CREEK (7FL6)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 24 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 06
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 4002 ft / 176 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 29.085000, -81.041667 (est) 

The wreckage was located in a wooded area about 300 ft left of the departure end of runway 6. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. A wreckage path was observed consisting of a descending path of broken tree branches that extended about 15 ft along a magnetic heading of 270° to the main wreckage. The main wreckage came to rest upright. The engine and propeller were pushed aft into the instrument panel and upward at a 45° angle. The leading edges of both wings displayed tree impression marks along their lengths. About 3 ft of the right-wing tip was suspended in a tree about 15 ft above the ground directly above the main wreckage. About 3.2 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel was found in each wing fuel tank, and about 1 tablespoon of water was found in both tanks. Both fuel tanks were intact and not breached. Control cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit flight controls to all flight control surfaces. The fuel selector valve was in the right tank position. The elevator trim was in the neutral position. The throttle and mixture controls were in the full-forward position. The magneto switch was in the both position.

The instrument panel was fractured in several places. The master switch was in the on position. Both control yokes were fractured behind the instrument panel and pushed to the side of the fuselage. The seat belts and shoulder harnesses were installed. The left main landing gear was bent aft and pushed under the fuselage. The cabin was crushed by impact forces. The wing flap handle was in the flaps-retracted position. The rudder and elevator remained attached and exhibited small dents on the leading edges.

The engine and propeller remained attached to the airframe. One propeller blade was bent aft mid-blade and the other blade was straight. There was no rotational scoring, gouging, or scraping on the propeller blades. The spinner dome was crushed by tree contact and tree bark was impacted into the propeller hub. The engine was clean and free of debris. The starter, left magneto, and carburetor were all separated due to impact forces. Thumb compression was established on all cylinders and lighted borescope inspection of the pistons and valves revealed no anomalies. Valve train continuity was established by rotating the propeller and observing movement of the rear accessory gears and rocker arms. Examination of the engine did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or abnormalities that would have precluded normal operation.

Additional Information

The Cessna 140 Operations Manual states, "Do not take off on less than 1/4 tank."

Cessna's Pilot Safety and Warning Supplements document contains a warning about flight coordination vs. fuel flow:

The shape of most airplane wing fuel tanks is such that, in certain flight maneuvers, the fuel may move away from the fuel tank supply outlet. If the outlet is uncovered, fuel flow to the engine may be interrupted and a temporary loss of power might result.

Daniel P. Boggs, Investigator In Charge



  1. This is tragic. The owner of the airplane, the CFI's father, owns a gas company in Butler, Pa., Triangle Gas Co. The CFI/PIC was negligent with his maintenance and preflight, something he will have to live with the rest of his life.

  2. No take off on fuel gauge means no takeoff.

  3. I’m surprised anyone lived through that avoidable crash. No lower leg will be a constant reminder. Really bad for the dead guy. Too familiar equates with complacency. No gas means eat the trees. Bad airport to practice out of gas. Really bad to spin in trying to return to terra firms. Straight ahead, like what you see or not. You had a plan for that, right? RIP victim.