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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN13LA286
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 18, 2013 in Fremont, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/11/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 182C, registration: N9075T
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that the purpose of the accident flight was to release four skydivers at 10,500 feet mean sea level (msl). The pilot reported that, before the accident flight, he used a calibrated dipstick to determine how much fuel was on board the airplane. The left and right fuel tanks contained 10 and 5 gallons of fuel, respectively. He noted that the skydiving flight typically took a single pass over the landing zone, which required about 20 to 25 minutes of flight time and 8 gallons of fuel; however, the accident flight required two passes over the landing zone at 10,500 feet msl, which added about 2 to 5 minutes to the accident flight. He reported that the flight climbed to 10,500 feet msl and the skydivers were released without any anomalies or malfunctions with the airplane. The pilot immediately initiated a descent to reenter the traffic pattern at the departure airport, and the airplane experienced a loss of engine power while on the downwind leg. A helicopter was approaching the airport at a similar altitude, which delayed the turn onto the base leg. Believing he had insufficient altitude to reach the runway, the pilot performed a forced landing to a field. The nose landing gear collapsed shortly after touchdown, and the airplane subsequently nosed over. Following the accident, the pilot reported to several individuals that the airplane "ran out of fuel," which resulted in the loss of engine power while in the traffic pattern. Additionally, the pilot stated that there were no mechanical issues with the engine before the loss of engine power. During a postaccident examination, 3.5 gallons of fuel were recovered from the airplane. According to the Pilot Operating Handbook, the airplane has 3 gallons of unusable fuel while operating in level flight and 10 gallons of unusable fuel while in flight attitudes other than level flight; therefore, the airplane did not have enough fuel for the accident flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's improper preflight planning, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion while in the traffic pattern.