NTSB Identification: CHI03LA087.
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Accident occurred Thursday, March 20, 2003 in Mankato, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/30/2003
Aircraft: Aero Commander 500-B, registration: N553RA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

The airplane sustained substantial damage when it experienced a loss of power to both engines and executed a forced landing at night to a dirt road about 4 miles south of the airport. The Part 135 cargo flight could not depart to its scheduled destination due to weather, so it departed on a Part 91 positioning flight to another destination. While en route, the pilot notified ATC that the airplane's fuel gauges were indicating low fuel. The pilot attempted a VOR instrument approach to a nearby airport, but was unsuccessful. ATC issued the pilot radar vectors and a clearance for the ILS approach to another airport. While flying the approach, both engines lost power and the pilot executed a forced landing. The pilot reported that he requested the local fixed base operator to fuel the airplane. The pilot did not observe the airplane being refueled, nor did he receive a fuel receipt. He reported that when he preflighted the airplane, he checked the fuel tanks by feeling for fuel with his fingers. He could not feel any fuel with his finger. He checked the fuel gauges and reported that the fuel gauges read FULL. He reported that the fuel gauges would read FULL when there might be only 120 gallons of fuel, even though the fuel tanks held 156 gallons. An inspection of the fuel tanks at the accident site revealed that the wing tanks were empty, and the fuselage tank had 5 quarts of fuel. An inspection of the airplane revealed no fuel leaks. The company's Operations Manual, "Aircraft Refueling Procedures," stated: "No company aircraft will be fueled unless a pilot or other company employee, experienced in aircraft fueling, is present.…..The pilot shall determine the quantity of fuel to be added to the aircraft and that the aircraft is properly grounded."

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

Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate preflight and not verifying the airplane had been refueled.

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