Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Fill ’Er Up

Make fuel management a priority

Running out of fuel and crashing is something you might expect from an inexperienced private pilot, but not from a crew of professional pilots or even experienced pilots. Yet that was exactly the case when it came to an accident that occurred on April 8, 2003. It involved a Dassault DA-20C Fan Jet Falcon that was being vectored by ATC in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) for another approach. The flight crew didn’t clearly communicate the gravity of its fuel condition in a timely manner, and the airplane’s engines failed due to fuel starvation. Fortunately, all occupants survived the crash. The accident should cause many pilots to resolve to pay more preflight attention to fuel requirements, to never hesitate to make a fuel stop and to never allow the fear of raising the FAA’s wrath to interfere with alerting controllers to an impending fuel crisis.

At 6:50 p.m., central daylight time, the jet, which was operated by Grand Aire Express Inc. as flight GAX179, was destroyed when it was ditched into the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo. The airplane was approaching to land on runway 30R at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL), when it lost power to both engines. The Part-135 non-scheduled domestic cargo flight was operating on an IFR flight plan in IMC at the time of the accident. The pilot and copilot received serious injuries. The airplane had been en route from the Del Rio International Airport in Del Rio, Texas.

The flight crew received vectors from air traffic control (ATC) for the ILS 30R approach to STL. During the first approach, the STL tower controller initially cleared the airplane to land on runway 30R. The STL tower controller, however, then told the flight crew to climb to 3,000 feet and to contact the departure controller. At 6:36:43, the departure controller radioed, “Radar contact, climb and maintain 5,000.”

The flight crew replied, “5,000…you know what’s, uh, what’s up with, uh, why we got a missed approach on that, one-seventy-nine?”
The controller responded, “Maintain 5,000. I didn’t understand your last.”

At 6:37:01, the crew radioed, “We’re climbing 5,000, and I’ve a question that we were missed on that three-zero-right approach. You know how far we’re gonna go out this way?”


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