ERA12LA589
ERA12LA589

On September 29, 2012, about 1430 central daylight time, a Cessna 421B, N1537T, operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged during a forced landing on a dirt road after the total loss of power on the right engine and a partial loss of power on the left engine. The pilot and three passengers were not injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed H. L. Sonny Callahan Airport, Fairhope, Alabama (CQF); destined for Craig Field Airport, Selma, Alabama, (SEM).

In an interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot stated that he departed CQF en route to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a football game. He added, "We were early for the game and decided to stop at SEM for lunch, cheap gas, and a little sight-seeing on the way." Ten minutes after departing CQF, the pilot stated that he switched from the left and right main tanks to supplying the left engine via the left auxiliary tank and the right engine via the right auxiliary tank. The pilot stated that while en route to SEM and in a descent from 4500 feet mean sea level (msl), the right engine started to "cough and lose power." He further stated that the right engine quit due to fuel starvation and he switched the right fuel selector valve to the right main tank and also said "I might have put the right fuel selector valve in the left main position." The pilot was unable to restart the right engine and elected to feather the right propeller. The pilot then stated that about 2 minutes later, the left engine began to "cough and lose power rapidly." The pilot recalled to the FAA inspector that both fuel selector valves should have been on left main tank; however, in his statement to an NTSB investigator, the pilot reported that his last action was to place the left fuel selector in the left auxiliary position. The airplane continued under partial power on the left engine for about 6 minutes, when the pilot realized that the airplane had descended down to 800 feet msl. At 600 feet msl, and 6 miles south of SEM, the pilot announced to the passengers that they would not reach the destination airport and selected a forced landing site. The pilot stated "at this time, I checked my boost pumps and put the left fuel selector back to the left auxiliary tank." The airplane touched down on a dirt road, crossed a bridge, clipped a tree, and came to rest in cotton field.

Postaccident examination of the airplane by an FAA inspector revealed substantial damage to the right wing main tank, right aileron, and buckling on the right lower wing aft spar area, about 2 feet out from the fuselage and 4 feet inboard of the wing tip. The FAA inspector noted that no fuel fumes, fuel leakage or fuel pooling was indicated where the plane came to rest. A visual examination of the left main tank, left auxiliary tank, and left wing locker tank indicated no visible fuel in all three tanks. A visual inspection of the right wing locker tank was zero, the right main tank was destroyed, and the right auxiliary tank indicated about 20 gallons.

Further examination and assessment of damage to the airplane by the FAA noted that the left and right fuel selector switches for both engines were in the left main tank detent. Battery power was applied to the airplane and the fuel system was configured so that the right fuel system would supply the right engine. After doing so, the right engine received good flow and a clean fuel sample. The fuel system was then configured for the left tanks to supply the left engine. The left engine was not receiving fuel for a sample. The inspector then crossfed the right side fuel system to supply the left engine and a clean sample was obtained. Both engines were inspected by the FAA with no anomalies or preflight conditions that would have precluded normal operations.

According to the pilot's written statement, on a previous day the airplane had 110 gallons of fuel onboard at last takeoff from CQF and 167 gallons on departure from SEM. According to the FAA inspector, no fuel was purchased at CQF or SEM on that day, from an airplane with the same registration as the accident aircraft. The last fuel receipt found for the airplane was from SEM on August 23, 2012, where 142 gallons was purchased, however; no cash or credit receipt was obtained by the FAA or NTSB. The pilot stated that on departure from CQF on the day of the accident, "my fuel gauges read the following: right main 28 gallons ,left main 31 gallons, right auxiliary around 20 gallons, and the left auxiliary about the same. Locker tanks 8 gallons and 0."

According to the Cessna model 421 owner's manual, the airplane should be operated via main tank fuel supply during takeoff, landing, and all normal operations. When fuel selector valve handles are changed from one position to another, the auxiliary fuel pumps should be switched to low, the mixture to full rich, and the pilot should feel for the detent to insure that the fuel selector valves are properly positioned.

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