CEN09LA400
CEN09LA400

On June 29, 2009, at 1030 central daylight time, N220TX, a Cirrus SR22 G3, sustained substantial damage when it collided with a barbed-wired fence during a forced landing to a gravel road near Bastrop, Texas. The airplane was registered to and operated by Planesmart Aviation, LLC, Addison, Texas. The certificated airline transport pilot was not injured. No flight plan was filed for the flight that departed William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Houston, Texas, approximately 0930, and destined for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Austin, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the repositioning flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot said he did an "appropriate" pre-flight inspection and verified the oil and fuel quantities before departure. However, the design of the fuel system would not have allowed him to visually verify the amount of fuel in the tanks unless the fuel level was brought up to the bottom of the tabs (67 gallons usable) or top of the tank (92 gallons usable). Instead, the pilot looked at the amount of fuel last programmed into the electronic fuel totalizer on the multi-function display, which read 42 gallons. The pilot crosschecked the amount indicated on the fuel totalizer with the fuel guages and they "argued" so he added 10 gallons of fuel to each tank (20 total). The total fuel capacity for this airplane was 94.5 total gallons; of which, 92 gallons are usable.

According to the pilot, he and his passenger departed Austin at 0830 with an estimated 62 gallons of fuel on board. The pilot was unable to program the electronic fuel totalizer with the new total amount of fuel for unknown reasons. As a result, he monitored the panel mounted fuel guages instead for both legs of the flight. The flight landed uneventfully in Houston, and the pilot did not purchase any fuel for the return flight back to Austin because "the primary fuel guages indicated sufficient fuel for the return leg...including planned reserves." He then departed alone for Austin.

The pilot stated that with 25 minutes remaining in the flight, he noted that the fuel guages indicated 10 gallons per side. He said, "My planning suggested I should still have 28 gallons on board, but the guages can fluctuate from time to time so I saw no reason for concern-even with the additional 8 gallons, I had enough fuel to make my destination plus an additional 45 minutes. I decided that I would fly off the right tank for as long as possible and then switch to the left tank to complete the landing."

During the next 10 minutes of flight, the pilot said the right fuel guage went from 10 gallons to 0. The fuel annunciator light illuminated and shortly after the right tank was "exhausted." The pilot switched to the left tank, and noted 9 gallons remaining. Shortly after, the fuel annunciator illuminated, and the engine lost total power.

The pilot elected to land on a narrow gravel road in between two large, open fields that were lined with barbed-wire fence (pilot said he did not see wire until in the landing flare). The road was too narrow for the airplane and the wings collided with the fencing.

Examination of the airplane revealed that both wings sustained structural damage, but the fuel tanks were not breached. The three-bladed propeller sustained minor damage and the landing gear were partially torn from the airplane. The fuel lines from the cockpit to each fuel tank was intact and no evidence of a fuel leak was noted. According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the accident site, when power was applied to airplane, the left fuel guage indicated approximately 2-3 gallons in the left fuel tank and the right guage indicated 0 gallons on the right fuel tank.

Data from the primary flight display unit, remote date module, and the multi-function display unit card were downloaded at the Safety Board's Research and Engineering Laboratory in Washington D.C. This data, along with fueling records provided by PlaneSmart, revealed that the airplane departed Austin with approximately 38.2 gallons and not 62 gallons. The calculations revealed that there would have been approximately 2.6 gallons total on board at the time the engine stopped producing power, which is consistent with the amount of fuel observed on the fuel guages observed by the FAA at the accident site.

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