Friday, December 25, 2020

Fuel Exhaustion: Champion 7ECA Citabria, N9566S; accident occurred December 18, 2019 in Starkville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Jackson, Mississippi

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Starkville, Mississippi
Accident Number: CEN20LA036
Date & Time: December 18, 2019, 17:43 Local 
Registration: N9566S
Aircraft: Champion 7ECA 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion 
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

Factual Information

On December 18, 2019, at 1743 central standard time, a Champion 7ECA, N9566S, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Starkville, Mississippi. The pilot received minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot was conducting a 400 nautical mile cross country flight from North Houston Airport (9X1), Texas, to deliver the airplane for sale at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR), Mississippi. GTR is located on an approximately 050° bearing from 9X1. After about 4.5 total hours of flight time and about 15 miles from GTR, the engine "hiccupped and appeared to run rougher." The pilot began an immediate turn to George M. Bryan Airport (STF), Mississippi, which was a closer. During the turn the right fuel gauge "slammed to [empty]" and the left fuel gauge was between 1/8 tank and empty, and the engine quit. The pilot attempted to restart the engine before realizing the airplane would not make the runway. The airplane struck a tree during the forced landing near the highway and both wings separated from the fuselage. The accident location was 15 miles west of GTR and two miles south of STF.

The Federal Aviation Inspector who responded to the scene said there was no fuel in the fuel tanks and there was no evidence of fuel on the ground. The airplane wreckage was disposed of prior to any additional examinations being conducted on the fuel gauges or wreckage. 

The pilot said he utilized timing backed up by gauges for fuel planning and awareness in general aviation aircraft. He had "topped off the tanks to 36 [gallons]" the night before the accident flight, which provided 35 gallons of usable fuel onboard. The pilot had previously verified his normal fuel burn rate for the airplane was 5.5 gallons per hour but said he "determined 6 GPH would provide a margin of safety." He also said he leaned the engine during the flight.

The pilot made an unplanned stop at Vicksburg Municipal Airport (VKS), Mississippi, after about 3 hours of flight. He did not visually check the fuel tanks during the stop and opted not to add fuel based off timing and the gauges showing the tanks were half full.

The pilot provided fuel planning for the accident flight that was completed post-accident. The computations indicated the flight would take 4.7 hours and burn 28.2 gallons of fuel. His planning included fuel used for start, taxi, takeoff, and climb at both 9X1 and VKS, as well as enroute descents to each airport. His calculations used a burn rate of 5.9 gallons per hour (GPH) at 5,500 ft mean sea level (MSL) and 2,600 revolutions per minute (RPM) and showed he should have arrived at GTR with 4.8 gallons of fuel, which exceeded that necessary to meet his 45-minute reserve requirement. He stated he would have needed to stop for fuel to meet his reserve fuel requirements if the planned flight exceeded 5 hours.

The airplane was equipped with a Continental O-200-A engine rated at 100 horsepower (HP) at 2,750 RPM. The pilot's operating handbook (POH) did not contain performance data for airplanes equipped with O-200-A engines, but did provide fuel burn rates for 7ECA airplanes equipped with Continental O235-C1 engines rated at 115 HP. The POH indicated the fuel burn rate for the O-235-C1 engine at 5,000 ft MSL and 2,600 RPM was 5.6 GPH and endurance was 6.3 hours. The fuel burn rate at 5,000 ft MSL and 2,700 RPM was 6.3 GPH and 5.6 hrs of endurance. The fuel burn rate at 5,000 ft MSL and 2,800 RPM was 8.9 GPH and 3.9 hrs of endurance.

The POH contained the following notes regarding cruise performance:

1. Maximum cruise is normally limited to 75% power.
2. All fuel consumption estimates are based on the recommended lean mixture when at or below 75% power and full rich above 75% power

The POH states "The fuel mixture should be leaned at any altitude when below 75% of maximum power." It also contains the warning "Range and endurance information is based on a properly leaned fuel mixture. Failure to lean the fuel mixture will increase fuel consumption appreciably."

The pilot stated he encountered higher than anticipated headwinds during the flight. The following wind aloft forecasts at 6,000 ft MSL were valid along the route of flight during the times of the flight:

VALID 181800Z FOR USE 1400-2100Z.
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) 010°/12 knots
Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV) 340°/16 knots
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Int'l Airport (JAN) 350°/17 knots
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) 010°/08 knots
Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV) 340°/12 knots
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Int'l Airport (JAN) 350°/16 knots 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial; Flight instructor; Private
Age: 38,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane multi-engine; Airplane single-engine; Instrument airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: May 22, 2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: December 9, 2019
Flight Time: 5742 hours (Total, all aircraft), 45 hours (Total, this make and model), 4500 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 120 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 40 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Champion
Registration: N9566S
Model/Series: 7ECA No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1965
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Aerobatic; Normal
Serial Number: 377
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel 
Date/Type of Last Inspection: December 17, 2019 Annual Certified 
Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Airframe Total Time: 2134 Hrs at time of accident 
Engine Manufacturer:
ELT: C91 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series:
Registered Owner:
Rated Power:
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: GTR
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time:
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.37 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C

Precipitation and Obscuration:

Departure Point: Vicksburg, MS (VKS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Columbus, MS (GTR) 
Type of Clearance: VFR flight following
Departure Time: 16:05 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: George M Bryan STF
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 332 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.39389,-88.852775(est)


  1. I completely agree with his recommendations regarding the FAA's stupid rules about allowing up to date informational equipment installation on/in certified aircraft. It's a bunch of bureaucratic B.S. Most of these old "certified" simple aircraft like Champs, Cubs, Cessna 120/140's, etc., will probably never be used as commercial aircraft. They need to create a new classification for these small certified aircraft where they can be operated in the same manner as experimental/homebuilt or Light Sport aircraft. Something like the Canadians have with owner maintained aircraft which our bureaucrats in the FAA won't even allow to fly in the U.S. even though they let homebuilt aircraft do it with virtually no restrictions.. The equipment, if it is portable, can be used in these aircraft with no restrictions so to speak as long as you don't bolt them to the aircraft permanently. This is what happens when you have a bunch or lawyers and we know beter than you people in a bureacracy who are "ate up with stupidity". Welcome to the LAND OF THE FREE !!!!!

  2. Even with every type of engine monitor, fuel flow, efis, etc. this happens. Great to politicize the issue but accident was preventable. Early in my flying career I had an experience that could have resulted in a similar accident cutting it close. I had about 100 hours, much less experience than this pilot, but learned from that situation. I was taught to use an accurate measuring stick, and conservative flight planning. First thing my CFI did was have me make a measuring stick by adding 2 gals, of fuel and marking the stick, starting with empty tanks. Use it every time I fly, even with the installed EI fuel flow, which is not that expensive to install compared to the new Garmin or equivalent nav panel.


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