On November 18, 1997, at 1530 hours Pacific standard time, an Aero Commander 200D, N2910T, collided with terrain short of the runway 12 while landing at the San Carlos, California, airport. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight which departed from Marysville, California, at 1450.

In his report to the Safety Board, the pilot stated that due to approaching inclement weather, he abbreviated the preflight inspection of the aircraft at the departure airport. Specifically, he did not visually examine the fuel level in the tanks. The flight was conducted on the left tank, which has a 20-gallon capacity, and indicated full at takeoff. During the before landing checklist the left gage still read 1/4 tank. On final approach, about 200 feet altitude, the engine lost power and there was insufficient time to switch tanks and restart the engine before impacting the ground short of the runway. The pilot reported that after the accident a visual check of the left tank showed it to be empty and yet the fuel gage read 1/4.

In a telephone conversation with the Safety Board, the pilot said that the aircraft had been in Marysville for an annual inspection. He had flown the aircraft from San Carlos to Marysville and back using fuel from the left tank. The total flying time is 1:20, the tank holds 20 gallons, and the fuel consumption rate is about 15 gallons per hour. The pilot said that he knew that on previous occasions the fuel gage had been inaccurate and that he made note of this to the maintenance facility before the annual inspection.

According to the FAA inspector's report of the accident, the Airplane Flight Manual recommends selecting the main tank with the most fuel in it for landing. After the accident the left main tank contained 1 cup of fuel, the right main tank contained 1 gallon of fuel, the left auxiliary tank was nearly full, and the right auxiliary tank, which had leaked after the accident, contained 5 gallons of fuel.

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