Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Fill ’Er Up

Make fuel management a priority

The airplane’s wreckage was almost completely submerged in the Mississippi River. The day after the accident, it was recovered from the river in two major sections and placed on a barge. The examination failed to disclose any problems with either the engines or the controls. A large amount of water was drained from the fuel tanks and no measurable quantity of fuel was ever recovered.

When interviewed by investigators, the copilot said that the left engine stopped producing power about 30 seconds after the right engine stopped producing power. He stated that when the right engine failed, the fuel quantity indicator read zero, and when the left engine failed, the fuel quantity indicator read 100 pounds. He also stated that after ATC instructed them to climb to 5,000 feet after their first approach, he questioned the pilot in command about landing at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. The copilot said that the pilot elected to continue with the second approach to STL. The Spirit of St. Louis Airport is located about 14 nm west-southwest of STL.

According to the operator’s records, the pilot had accumulated 3,221 total flight hours, including 1,270 in the same make and model airplane as the accident airplane. The copilot had accumulated 5,758 total flight hours, including 1,532 in the same make and model airplane as the accident airplane. Both pilots held ATP certificates.

The pilot said that the airplane had taken off from Del Rio with 6,200 pounds of fuel. The airplane was limited to 25,000 pounds takeoff weight. The actual takeoff weight was 24,646 pounds. After the accident, the fuel totalizers showing left- and right-engine fuel flow read 2,978 and 2,944 pounds, respectively.

The weather for STL at 6:53 p.m., was: wind—20 degrees, eight knots; visibility—2 sm, light rain and mist; ceiling—500 feet broken, 1,200 feet overcast; temperature—4 degrees C; dew point—4 degrees C; altimeter setting—30.25; remarks—surface visibility 21⁄2 sm, ceiling variable from 500 to 1,000 feet. The probable cause was the pilot in command’s improper in-flight decision not to divert to an alternate destination, resulting in low fuel supply, and failure to relay his low-fuel state in time.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, NY 10602-0831.


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