Saturday, April 24, 2021

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Cessna 172E Skyhawk, N3031U; accident occurred April 30, 2019 in Wasilla, Alaska

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Wasilla, Alaska 
Accident Number: GAA19CA236
Date & Time: April 30, 2019, 19:00 Local
Registration: N3031U
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that, during the preflight inspection, he asked the student pilot, who was the owner of the airplane, how much fuel was onboard the airplane and that the student replied that there was enough fuel for about 3 hours of flight. He added that, during the flight, he became concerned about the fuel level because he saw that the right fuel gauge needle displayed "little movement." After a brief conversation with the student about the fuel burn, the instructor decided to return to the airport.

The student stated that he visually checked the fuel tanks during the preflight and estimated that there was about 1/2 tank (19 gallons), which was enough for about 2.5 hours of flight based on a fuel burn of 7.5 gph. The student reported that, during the flight, the instructor commented that the fuel gauge looked low and that he responded that it was working "intermittently," at which point, the instructor decided to return to the airport.

The student reported that, about 5 nautical miles from the airport, the airplane "ran out of fuel at 3,000 ft MSL [mean sea level]." Subsequently, the instructor landed the airplane on a road, and the right wing struck a power line pole.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The flight instructor's failure to verify the fuel level, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and a subsequent forced landing and collision with a power line pole. Contributing to the accident was the student pilot's inadequate preflight fuel planning.


Personnel issues Preflight inspection - Instructor/check pilot
Environmental issues Pole - Effect on operation
Aircraft Fuel - Inadequate inspection
Aircraft Fuel - Fluid level
Personnel issues Fuel planning - Student/instructed pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise Fuel exhaustion
Enroute-cruise Loss of engine power (total) (Defining event)
Landing Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Flight Instructor Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 66, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/11/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 56, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/18/2018
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 87 hours (Total, all aircraft), 87 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N3031U
Model/Series: 172 E
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1963
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17250631
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/28/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2562 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91 installed
Engine Model/Series: O-360-A1A
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 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: PAWS, 354 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0056 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 238°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 400 ft agl
Visibility:  8 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 6500 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 3 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 70°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.4 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Wasilla, AK (PAWS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Wasilla, AK (PAWS)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1730 ADT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 61.599167, -149.450556 (est)


  1. Occupational pilot with a 3rd class physical???

  2. some more like MOST of these Seat of your pants fuel calculations are beyond ridiculous!!