Thursday, November 25, 2021

Fuel Exhaustion: Thatcher CX4, N306TA; accident occurred September 09, 2021 in Marshalltown, Marshall County, Iowa

Aviation Accident Final 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; Des Moines, Iowa

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Marshalltown, Iowa
Accident Number: CEN21LA419
Date and Time: September 9, 2021, 12:45 Local 
Registration: N306TA
Aircraft: Thatcher CX4 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion 
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot stated that he visually inspected the airplane fuel quantity before the flight and estimated there was 6 gallons of fuel. He said there was enough fuel for the planned flight with a fuel consumption rate of 3.5 gallons/hour. After he flew to an airport to perform a touch-and-go landing, in addition to local area flying, he began a return flight to the departure airport. He then realized that the airplane fuel quantity gauge indicated a fuel consumption that was greater than he had planned. About 3 miles from the departure/destination airport, the fuel gauge indicated near empty, and the engine ceased operation. He said he restarted the engine, which operated for about 5 seconds and then quit again. The pilot performed a forced landing on a corn field, during which the airplane nosed over. The airplane sustained substantial damage that included damage to the fuselage, empennage, and both wings. The pilot said the loss of engine power was due to his overestimation of fuel quantity during his preflight of the airplane and the inaccuracy of the fuel gauge. The pilot said there was no mechanical malfunction or failure of the airplane that would have precluded normal operations.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to properly determine the correct fuel quantity during preflight inspection that resulted in a loss of engine power during approach due to fuel exhaustion.


Personnel issues Preflight inspection - Flight crew
Aircraft Fuel - Fluid level
Aircraft Fuel indication system - Related operating info

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight Aircraft inspection event
Approach Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)
Approach Loss of engine power (total)
Approach Attempted remediation/recovery
Emergency descent Loss of engine power (total)
Landing-flare/touchdown Off-field or emergency landing

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 68, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Sport pilot 
None Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 242 hours (Total, all aircraft), 80 hours (Total, this make and model), 219 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 18 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Thatcher 
Registration: N306TA
Model/Series: CX4 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2008 
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental (Special) 
Serial Number: CX159
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: September 19, 2020 Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 850 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 359 Hrs at time of accident 
Engine Manufacturer: Revmaster
ELT: Not installed 
Engine Model/Series: 2100D
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 65
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MIW,975 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 1.5 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 11:53 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 300°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 290° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Marshalltown, IA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Marshalltown, IA 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Marshalltown Municipal Airport MIW
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 975 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Vegetation
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: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 42.1226,92.9455 (est)

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