NTSB Identification: WPR11FA002
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, October 03, 2010 in Avalon, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/04/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA 310, registration: N310XX
Injuries: 1 Serious,2 Minor.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The non-instrument rated owner/pilot of the twin engine airplane dropped off his two passengers on the island and then flew to the mainland, where he remained overnight. The next day he returned to the island a few hours late due to weather on the mainland, and he and his friends ate lunch. While dining, the pilot noticed that the weather was deteriorating rapidly and suggested that they depart before instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. After boarding the airplane and starting the engine, the pilot conducted an abbreviated engine run-up during the taxi. The takeoff roll was normal, but about 2 to 3 seconds after liftoff, the left engine failed, and the airplane veered to the left. The pilot pushed the nose down to maintain airspeed, and the airplane entered a cloud/fog bank, impacted terrain, and was engulfed by fire.

Postaccident examination of the left engine and propeller did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. On scene, the fuel selector valve for the left engine was found set between "OFF" and its normal takeoff setting. The mechanical configuration of the selector valve and linkage made it unlikely that the valve setting was altered by impact forces, particularly since the surrounding airplane structure remained intact. The left engine was tested at the engine manufacturer's facility where it operated normally and developed full-rated takeoff power. Testing of the left fuel selector valve revealed that, in its as-found position, it was incapable of delivering the required fuel flow to the engine at takeoff power. The pilot stated that it was his habit to shut off both fuel selector valves after each flight and that he did so after the previous landing. Residual fuel in the lines, gascolator, and carburetor, combined with the limited flow capability of the mis-set selector valve, permitted the engine to be started and operated normally at low rpm. However, the high fuel flow demand of the engine operating at full power could not be maintained by the mis-set valve, and the engine failed in the initial climb due to fuel starvation.

The pilot's decision to attempt the departure with the rapidly deteriorating weather caused him to hasten his activities. Had the pilot not been in a rush, it is likely that he would have properly set the left engine fuel selector valve. He also would have conducted a full and/or longer engine run-up, which would have failed the engine before the takeoff attempt if he hadn’t properly reset the left engine fuel selector valve. While the pilot took the initiative to create a personal checklist, he missed the opportunity to improve upon the existing manufacturer's checklist. The pilot's personal checklist appeared visually and functionally inferior to the manufacturer's checklist, and it did not include any double checks of such flight-critical items as fuel selector valve position.

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

The pilot's improper setting of the left engine fuel selector valve, which resulted in fuel starvation of the left engine immediately after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to try to depart ahead of developing weather, which resulted in his hastened departure procedures and likely led to his failure to recognize the incorrect fuel selector positioning.

Full narrative available

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