DEN99LA014
DEN99LA014

On October 20, 1998, at 1226 mountain daylight time, a Beech B200, N50PM, was destroyed after making an emergency landing following a total loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The private pilot and his passenger were not injured. The flight was operating as a personal cross-country flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91, and an IFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated from McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, at 0930, with a filed destination of Atlanta, Georgia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, on the evening before the accident, he called Signature Flight Service, the Fixed Based Operator (FBO) where the plane was parked, and requested that they top off both the main and auxiliary fuel tanks of N50PM. When he arrived at the airport the following morning, he checked the fuel gauges and they "read 600 lbs. each on the gauges," which he interpreted as the auxiliary tanks. He then "pressed the toggle switch down, and the needles moved to the left," leading him to believe the main tanks were full and that the airplane was "properly fueled." The pilot did not visually check the fuel tanks during the preflight.

Approximately one hour after departure from Las Vegas, while level at 33,000 feet (FL 330), the aircraft experienced a failure of the right engine. The pilot notified Los Angeles Center that he needed to descend to the nearest airport. He attempted to proceed to Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was 50 nautical miles to the east. About five minutes later, the left engine failed. Unable to make it to the airport, he made an emergency landing in a field northwest of Albuquerque. When the aircraft touched down, the landing gear sank into the soft ground. The aircraft sustained damage to the airframe and the landing gear.

The pilot stated in his accident report: "My conditioning and focus on 'fuel' pre-flighting had been on the aux[iliary] tanks... The gauges are the same for the aux. and mains with the toggle switch differentiating them. When I viewed the gauges, I mistook the '600' lbs. as normal for 'full aux.' This started a chain reaction that did not get better. When I pressed the toggle switch, and saw movement to the 'left,' which is normal for the aux. gauge and saw a movement, I mistook this for the mains."

An FAA inspector, who examined the aircraft following the accident, stated that he observed no evidence of fuel in either the auxiliary or the main fuel tanks.

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