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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN16LA069
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 27, 2015 in Watertown, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/20/2017
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N5PF
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 private pilot had spent several hours flying practice instrument approaches to various airports. He stated that he became distracted and failed to monitor the airplane’s fuel state. His normal habit was to alternate between the airplane’s wing fuel tanks every 30 minutes; however, he did not perform this action during the last hour of the accident flight. Shortly after takeoff to return to his home airport in night visual meteorological conditions, the airplane’s engine experienced a total loss of power. The pilot turned back toward the departure airport, but the airplane did not have sufficient altitude to complete a power-off glide to the runway. The pilot stated that he did not switch the airplane’s fuel selector following the loss of engine power. About 344 ft above ground level, the pilot activated the airplane’s airframe parachute system. The low-altitude activation resulted in an incomplete deployment of the parachute and a nose-down impact with the ground, during which the pilot sustained serious injury.
The pilot stated that there were no mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane. Postaccident examination revealed that the airplane’s fuel system was intact. The right wing tank, which was selected, contained about 21 oz of fuel, and the left wing tank contained about 22 gallons. Therefore, the total loss of engine power was consistent with fuel starvation.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s improper in-flight fuel management, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to switch fuel tanks after the engine lost power, and his delayed decision to activate the airframe parachute system, which resulted in his serious injury due to incomplete deployment of the system and the airplane’s improper attitude upon touchdown.