NTSB Identification: LAX99LA240.
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Accident occurred Thursday, July 01, 1999 in POLACCA, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/06/2001
Aircraft: Cessna 421B, registration: N5943M
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During the initial climb after takeoff, both engines lost power and the pilot force landed in the desert. The airplane was on a positioning flight following a right engine change because of a previous engine failure, which had occurred about 1 month prior to the accident. The airplane had remained parked on the ramp at the airport without security. The operator said that they usually provided security for airplanes parked in remote locations due to past incidents of vandalism and fuel theft, but did not do so on this occasion. The pilot of the accident airplane did not visually check the fuel quantity; instead, he relied on the fuel gauges. He did not open the cowling on either engine but relied on the mechanic's word that the aircraft was ready for flight. After takeoff, when he changed the left fuel selector from the main to the auxiliary tank, the engine quit. He turned toward the runway, switched the fuel selector back to the main tank, and turned the left fuel boost pump switch to high. The left engine fuel flow was near zero and there was no effect with the boost pump. He then noticed that the right engine was losing power. He did not feather either propeller. When he determined he would not reach the runway, he stalled the airplane into bushes to cushion the landing. Postaccident examination revealed that there was no fuel found in either the left or right main tip tanks. The left tip main tank was broken open during the forced landing with no evidence of fuel spray on the surrounding vegetation. Aircraft recovery personnel found 18 gallons of fuel in the left auxiliary tank and 23 gallons of fuel in the right auxiliary fuel tank. The right engine air induction tube was disconnected at the inlet flange to the fuel/air metering control unit. Fuel consumption calculations on the preceding flights and ground runs failed to account for approximately 74 gallons of fuel. Both engines operated to manufacturer's specifications during postaccident examinations in test cells. Fuel analysis of samples from the various tanks contained high particulate contamination consisting of rust, dirt, iron, and flakes of aluminum.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's inadequate preflight inspection, which failed to determine the fuel supply in each fuel tank, and his mismanagement of the fuel supply, which resulted in fuel starvation.

Full narrative available

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