NTSB Identification: LAX05LA068.
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Accident occurred Friday, January 14, 2005 in Yuba City, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/28/2006
Aircraft: Cessna T210L, registration: N5177V
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.

During a 20-minute flight, the engine lost power due to fuel exhaustion, and the pilot forced landed the airplane in a river. Prior to departure, the pilot noted that the left fuel tank gauge indicated less than 1/4 tank and the right fuel tank gauge indicated 1/4 tank of fuel. The pilot did not visually verify the fuel quantity in the tanks and departed using the right tank. The pilot climbed the airplane to 5,500 feet mean seal level and set the manifold pressure and rpm at 25 inches and 2,500 rpm, respectively. He then leaned the mixture to 30 degrees, lean of peak. During cruise flight, the pilot felt a drop in power and noticed a fluctuating fuel flow indication and almost 1/4 tank of fuel indicated on the right gauge. He switched to the left fuel tank, power was restored, and the fuel flow stabilized. While approaching to land at the nearest airport, the pilot extended the gear and set the flaps to the approach setting. Then, the engine began to lose power again and the fuel flow was fluctuating. He applied a full rich mixture, full forward on the throttle and the propeller. He also switched the fuel selector to the right tank and pitched the airplane's attitude for best glide speed. Because the airplane was about 1,500 feet above ground level and nearing the approach end of the runway, the pilot elected to perform a 360-degree turn in order to dissipate the airplane's altitude. As the airplane came through 270 degrees, he noted that the airplane was too low to land on the runway. After assessing his other landing options, the pilot elected to land the airplane in the river. He raised the gear and slowed the airplane to 80 miles per hour. Upon landing, the pilot egressed the airplane and swam to shore. The pilot felt that he should not have departed without refueling the airplane. The airplane had accumulated about 5 1/2 hours since its last refueling. The pilot said that he was planning on obtaining fuel from another airport in his city; however, a family member called requesting a ride from a nearby airport and he decided to refuel there instead. Performance calculations indicated that the usable fuel level would have been nearly depleted based on the flight profiles and times since the last refueling of the airplane.

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

the pilot's inadequate preflight preparation and failure to verify the fuel supply, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and subsequent loss of engine power.

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