SEA08LA191
SEA08LA191

On August 29, 2008, about 1856 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N172ST, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power near Burbank, California. The private pilot sustained serious injuries, and two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to Universal Aviators Academy of El Monte, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, which was operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed the Modesto City Airport, Harry Sham Field (MOD), about 1530. Its destination was reported to be Brackett Field (POC), La Verne, California.

In a report submitted to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot, who had received his private pilot's license 3 days prior to the accident, stated that he planned the round-robin cross-country flight in order "to build hours." The pilot's route of flight was from the El Monte Airport (EMT), El Monte, California, to MOD, a distance of 286 nautical miles (nm) as indicated on the pilot's Flight Navigation Log. However, the pilot deviated from the planned route by first flying from EMT to POC to pick up a friend before departing for MOD; POC is 13 nm east of EMT.

In a report submitted to the IIC by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector who conducted a post accident interview with the pilot, the inspector stated that prior to departing EMT the pilot had both fuel tanks filled, for a total of 43 gallons of fuel on board (40 gallons usable). The pilot reported that he was trained to use 8 to 10 gallons per hour as a cruise fuel burn for flight planning purposes. The pilot reported using an average ground speed of 98 knots, and recorded an en route time from EMT to MOD of 2.8 hours.

The inspector reported that the flight departed EMT about 1200 and arrived at POC at 1220. It was estimated the flight departed POC for MOD at 1230, arriving MOD about 1315, for a flight time of 2.8 hours. The inspector calculated a total fuel burn between EMT and MOD to be 24.7 gallons, which equates to a fuel burn of 8.8 gallons per hour (gph). The inspector reported the airplane would have arrived at MOD with 15.3 gallons of fuel remaining.

After landing at MOD the pilot filled both the left and right fuel tanks with 5 gallons of fuel each. This brought the total fuel load for the return flight to EMT up to 25.3 gallons, which equates to 2.8 hours of flight time at an average fuel burn of 9 gph. The pilot did not plan for the required 45 minute fuel reserve, or about 7 gallons, which would equate to a minimum fuel load from MOD to EMT of 32 gallons.

The pilot reported that on the return flight to POC he was at 9,500 feet msl over the Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Van Nuys, California, which is about 35 nm west of POC, when the engine started to lose power. The pilot stated that he contacted air traffic control, informed the controller that he had a fuel problem, and requested landing clearance at the Bob Hope Airport (BUR), Burbank, California; BUR is located about 7 nm east of VNY. The pilot reported that at this point the engine was "producing zero thrust and the propeller was windmilling." He contacted the BUR tower and was cleared to land on Runway 15. The pilot stated that while turning from base leg to final approach he was also performing the normal and emergency checklists, which resulted in the airplane overshooting the runway. The pilot reported that he attempted to land on a residential street when the left wing struck a street light and powerlines. The airplane subsequently came to rest in an inverted position, suspended above the street by a powerline wrapped around the airplane's empennage, its nose resting on the roof of a parked car, and its right wing tip resting on the street's pavement. The airplane's left wing was folded back and upward at about a 45-degree angle parallel to the longitudinal axis of the airplane; its leading edge sustained impact damage. About the top one-half of the airplane's rudder had been severed, as well as the top 6 inches of its vertical stabilizer. The airplane's left forward cabin door area had come to rest against a telephone pole. All three landing gear remained intact. There was no postcrash fire.

The FAA inspector conducted a postaccident examination of the engine. During the examination a new propeller was installed on the airplane and the engine was started. The engine ran normally and produced power with the movement of the throttle. The mixture control worked normally during the engine shutdown. The pilot reported no anomalies with the airplane or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The FAA inspector reported that it is common knowledge within the general aviation industry that "…these airplanes consume more fuel at cruise than what the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) indicates. The industry standard of 8 to 10 per hour of fuel burn is common." The inspector reported that the pilot's Flight Navigation Log to MOD indicated that he had calculated a fuel burn of 8 to 10 gallons per hour.

According to Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.151, under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), "Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions", states in part, "No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed, at night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes.

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