Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Cessna 152, N89887, accident occurred June 30, 2018 near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (KECP), Bay County, Florida

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Vestavia Hills, Alabama

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Location: Panama City, FL
Accident Number: GAA18CA419
Date & Time: 06/30/2018, 1645 CDT
Registration: N89887
Aircraft: Cessna 152
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, 15 minutes into a cross-country flight, the airplane's engine lost rpm. He added power, and the engine regained rpm briefly before losing all power. The pilot selected a dirt road for an emergency landing, during which the nose landing gear touched down on a soft surface, and the airplane nosed over.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left and right wings and the front windshield.

The pilot reported that the airplane had 4.5 gallons of fuel on board at the last takeoff. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector reported that, during postaccident examination of the airplane, the fuel tanks were found empty. The gascolator had residual fuel, and about 1 gallon of fuel was removed from the fuselage fuel drain. He added that, according to the manufacturer's specifications, the airplane should have had 1.5 gallons of unusable fuel. He turned on the airplane's master power switch to view the fuel quantity gauge indications, and the left-wing tank gauge indicated between empty and a quarter full with no fuel in the tank, and the right-wing fuel tank gauge indicated empty.

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, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent total loss of engine power.


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Soft surface - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Loss of engine power (total)
Off-field or emergency landing

Nose over/nose down 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 25, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 11/03/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 06/25/2018
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 198 hours (Total, all aircraft), 67 hours (Total, this make and model), 134 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 21 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 13 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N89887
Model/Series: 152 No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1978
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 15282904
Landing Gear Type:Tricycle 
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  10/26/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1669 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6735.7 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91A installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-235-L26
Registered Owner: Skyline Solutions Inc
Rated Power: 125 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Pilot School (141)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KECP, 69 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1045 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 94°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting:
Temperature/Dew Point: 32°C / 26°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Destin, FL (DTS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Panama City, FL (ECP)
Type of Clearance: VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1030 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 30.352500, -85.841111 (est)


  1. Reading this site often, and hoping never to end up here, can’t help but comment on this one. How does a CFI takeoff with 4.5 gallons of fuel on a 282nm cross country flight? As a 350hr private pilot hoping to get instrument rated in the next 6 months, I cannot fathom forgetting something as rudimentary and essential as checking the fuel in the tanks. But to do so and then admit you departed on this flight with under 5 gal fuel? I’m stymied. Kudos for his honesty but this deserves close scrutiny as the pilot is listed on the registry, fully credentialed. Does not compute.

  2. My instructor once told me the only time you can have too much fuel is when you're on fire. I always top off the tanks because fuel can buy you time. Shakin' my head.

  3. The pilot recommended as a safety recommendation to "fill the fuel tank!"