Saturday, July 11, 2020

Fuel Starvation: Cessna 172H Skyhawk, N3772F; accident occurred December 27, 2016 in Bridgeport, Jackson County, Alabama


The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Bridgeport, AL
Accident Number: ERA17LA075
Date & Time: 12/27/2016, 1600 CST
Registration: N3772F
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


During a local personal flight, the airline transport pilot was performing a series of steep turns to the right with the fuel selector positioned to the right tank, which contained about 4.5 gallons of fuel. When the airplane rolled out of a steep turn, the engine began to sputter and lose power. The pilot subsequently performed a forced landing to a field, during which the airplane flipped over and sustained substantial damage to the left wing. After the accident, the pilot reported that there were no preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation and that the loss of engine power was likely the result of fuel starvation due to the low quantity of fuel in the right fuel tank. This likely occurred during the steep turn to the right as the fuel inside the right fuel tank flowed outboard and away from the fuel pickup located on the inboard side of the tank. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's decision to make steep turns to the right while operating on the right fuel tank with low fuel quantity, which led to a loss of engine power due to unporting of the right fuel tank and fuel starvation.


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Incorrect action selection - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

On December 27, 2016, about 1600 central standard time, a Cessna 172H, N3772F, was substantially damaged during a forced landing. The airline transport pilot was not injured, the passenger sustained minor injuries. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that departed Marin County Airport-Brown Field (APT), Jasper, Tennessee.

The pilot stated that he departed for a local flight with 11 gallons of fuel, and during the flight he noted that there was more fuel in the right tank than then left. He switched the fuel selector from the BOTH position to the RIGHT position. The pilot then performed a series of steep turns to the right, varying between 45° to 60° of bank, over a relative's house. While rolling out from the steep turns the engine began to surge, sputter, and lose power. After attempting to restart the engine to no avail, he performed a forced landing in a field. The airplane flipped over and came to rest inverted resulting in substantial damage to the left wing. After the accident, the pilot moved the fuel selector back to the BOTH position.

A postaccident examination by a Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspector revealed that the right fuel tank contained about 4.5 gallons of fuel, and the left tank contained about 3.5 gallons of fuel. The pilot reported that prior to the loss of engine power, there were no preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation and that the low quantity of fuel in the right fuel tank likely resulted in fuel starvation.

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land, as well as a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single, and instrument airplane. He reported 5,572 hours of total flight experience, his most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on July 28, 2016.

According to a note in the airplane's Owner's Manual under the heading Power Recovery Techniques, "Should power irregularities occur when operating on a single tank, power can be restored by switching to the opposite tank. In addition, the vapor accumulation in the tank on which the power irregularity occurred will rapidly dissipate itself such that that tank will also be available for normal operation after it has been unused for approximately one minute."

Review of the airplane's Illustrated Parts Catalog showed that the fuel pickup for both wing-mounted fuel tanks was located at the inboard side of each tank.

The weather conditions at Winchester Municipal Airport (BGF), Winchester, Tennessee, located about 20 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, at 0355, included wind 350° at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast at 4,400 ft, temperature 12° C and dew point of 5° C, and altimeter setting of 30.20 inches of mercury.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Commercial
Age: 59, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/28/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/15/2016
Flight Time:  5572 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1361 hours (Total, this make and model), 1361 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 26 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 4 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N3772F
Model/Series: 172 H
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17255267
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/15/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3155.16 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300 SER
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 160 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: KBGF, 978 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2055 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 304°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4400 ft agl
Visibility (RVR): 
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 350°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.2 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C / 5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: JASPER, TN (APT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: JASPER, TN (APT)
Type of Clearance:None 
Departure Time: 1540 CST
Type of Airspace: Class C; Class D 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 34.985833, -85.722778 (est)

1 comment:

  1. Headed out on a 20 minute flight with girlfriend on board to check a new headset. Right tank selected. Let's do some 360's while we are at it.

    "The pilot then performed a series of steep turns to the right, varying between 45° to 60° of bank, over a relative's house."