Saturday, November 27, 2021

Fuel Exhaustion: Air Tractor AT-502B, N502CP; accident occurred August 06, 2021 in Topeka, Kansas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Wichita, Kansas
Air Tractor; Olney, Texas 
Hartzell Propeller; Piqua, Ohio
Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Gatineau, Quebec, Canada 
Pratt & Whitney Canada; Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

McElwain Sprayers LLC 

Location: Topeka, Kansas 
Accident Number: CEN21LA362
Date and Time: August 6, 2021, 08:48 Local
Registration: N502CP
Aircraft: AIR TRACTOR INC AT-502B 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


The commercial pilot reported that before the aerial application flight, he added Jet A fuel to both wing tanks for a total of 150 gallons of fuel onboard. While flying low-level over a field on the third load, the pilot noticed a change in engine power. He maneuvered the airplane out of the field and the engine steadily lost power. The pilot tried to advance the power forward with no change and the airspeed and altitude decreased. The pilot performed a forced landing to a bean field. During the landing, the airplane bounced, slid across a road, and then came to rest upright. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and the right wing.

The property owner of the bean field reported that he helped the pilot add about 9 gallons of red die automotive diesel fuel to the left fuel tank and about 5 gallons of the fuel to the right fuel tank after the accident. The pilot reported that the low fuel warning light illuminated about five minutes before the partial loss of engine power, yet the pilot continued with the low-level aerial application maneuvers. When the low fuel warning light illuminates, the airplane flight manual states to, “fly straight and level and monitor fuel gauges” and “land as soon as practical.” The operator reported that there were no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or
failures with the airframe and engine that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s decision to continue low-level aerial application flight maneuvers after the low fuel warning light illuminated, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.


Aircraft Fuel - Fluid management
Aircraft (general) - Incorrect use/operation
Personnel issues Use of equip/system - Pilot
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Fuel related
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Loss of engine power (partial)
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Attempted remediation/recovery
Landing Off-field or emergency landing
Landing Collision during takeoff/land

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial 
Age: 25, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Single-engine sea
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification:  Class 2 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 8, 2021
Occupational Pilot: Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: June 5, 2021
Flight Time: (Estimated) 2470.7 hours (Total, all aircraft), 473 hours (Total, this make and model), 2452.9 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 563.3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 314.2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 11.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: AIR TRACTOR INC 
Registration: N502CP
Model/Series: AT-502B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted (Special) 
Serial Number: 502B2632
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel 
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: June 1, 2021 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 8000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Turbo prop
Airframe Total Time: 4648.1 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt & Whitney Canada
ELT: Not installed 
Engine Model/Series: PT6A-34AG
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 750 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural aircraft (137)
Operator Does Business As: McElwain Sprayers, LLC 
Operator Designator Code: WCFG

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KTOP,885 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 08:53 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 140°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility:  9 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 80° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 18°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Atchison, KS (K59) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Wamego, KS (69K) 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 07:04 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 39.216972,-95.76119(est)

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe what I just read. Fuel exhaustion again? Basic airmanship eludes another wannabe.