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An unusual twin accident - fuel exhaustion?


They think the pilot mismanaged the fuel system. However, there doesn’t seem to have been much fuel around anyway.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Just read the report. What an idiot. To save 9p/liter (!!) he kills himself and a passenger.

From everything I know and heard of the deceased pilot he was not an idiot and it seems a shame to call him that now when he is not in a position to defend himself.

He landed with 45 mins of fuel available. His mistake was not to transfer that fuel to the mains earlier. But Cessna twin fuel systems are notorious for their complexity and lack of user friendliness.

His second mistake was to mess up an engine failure on short final. It should have been a straightforward exercise of landing straight ahead on one engine. He was clearly not current enough on asymmetric handling and that cost him his life and that of his wife.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Timothy, I beg to differ (except the landing – you’re spot-on there, IMHO). Even the AAIB quite clearly think so, just read the repeated references to him trying to save fuel expenses – at all cost. In this case, the ultimate cost.

He was clearly not current enough on asymmetric handling

Some American insurers will not provide cover to multi engine aircraft, unless you undergo regular proficiency training at outfits like Flight Safety (usually every six months). Typically an MEP rating in the US may take 15 hours of training, and the flight test is reasonably rigorous. There would be a one to two hour oral component where systems knowledge, asymmetric flight principles needs to be evidenced clearly. Flight Safety refresher programmes are typically two day affairs with extensive system and emergency procedure revision.

This pilot had recently gone through both dual and a LPC. The report does not say how much MEP training he had for his first issuance, but the UK standard is typically 6 or 7 hours dual. There is no oral component to the issuance of ME privileges in EASA.

It would be interesting to get views on what recurring training would be required for a private pilot (this pilot held a CPL) to maintain currency – A to B AOC jobs (not many MEP on A to B these days) require 500 hours PIC, plus the apparatus of regular line checks and training.

Reading the report it reinforces the statistics that SE operations are intrinsically safer than ME for private operators.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

This has the potential to, as usual, drift into a SE vs ME debate once again. And there is no way to come to any conclusion as long as we don’t include the times when a ME aircraft lands with just one engine safely. That statistic doesn’t exist. And until it does, no meaningful comparison can ever be made. But if you were a betting man, only interested in odds, wouldn’t you probably put your money on the ME statistic being safer?

All I can say in regards to this accident is that either two things must have happened here:

1. He was dragging it in on power on an approach close to Vmc at high power and when one quit due to starvation, he was on his back.

2. He attempted a go around and then one quit.

If it’s scenario one, then he’s must have messed up the approach quite badly, or is doing it all wrong. Sure, I’ve dragged them in with power sometimes when I’ve messed the approach. But if you’re on final, carrying maybe 15" of power, close to Vmc, then even if one quits you will not be on your back. Not enough power. You have to be close to full power for that to be able to happen as abruptly as the stills from the accident suggest.

This leaves scenario two as the most likely thing, compounded by fuel mismanagement.

I have read a huge number of the UK AAIB reports and it is very rare for them to say something like this

It is of course highly relevant to know this sort of stuff, but it tends to become known only through rumour by email, from people who knew the pilot.

It is a welcome development IMHO, though very sad to read about it in this context.

I am amazed that people fly aircraft with these fuel systems (or actually any aircraft) on long trips without a GPS linked fuel totaliser. The cost of such a system is of the same order as the cost of avgas to fill the tanks a couple of times. The technology has been mainstream for about 15 years.

The report says he probably had 45 minutes, but without a GPS linked totaliser he could not have known what he actually had to better than plus or minus half an hour or so – because he had no accurate means of knowing the actual fuel flow. He had a GPS but all that gives you is support (via ground speed and arrival times at waypoints) for a manual fuel calculation method. Look at the figures here and you will see just how wrong you can be, via a very small change in engine operating point.

I also don’t get this 9p/litre business. It costs me a few gallons to do a landing (takeoff and climb, minus the saving in the descent) and surely that is more than 9p/litre on the flight in question.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I don’t think most GA types should be flown to the last pound of fuel limit. These aircraft are being flown for pleasure with high operating costs. Saving £10 on a fill up is not worth the risk.

I always fill up in Germany even though Jet-A1 is stupidly expensive. A cost of flying and better to have the fuel in the aircraft than on the ground.

EGTK Oxford

I am amazed that people fly aircraft with these fuel systems (or actually any aircraft) on long trips without a GPS linked fuel totaliser.

I have never flown with a “GPS linked fuel totaliser”, whatever that may be, on any aircraft ever. But I have flown a lot on the C340 and C421B which have the same fuel system mess as this C310. Some even have two more supplementary tanks (with no gages or other indication of their contents!) in the engine nacelles whose contents must be transferred to the main tanks with electrical pumps. But only after one hour of fuel has been drained from the mains, otherwise the fuel pumped in from the supplementary tanks will be vented overboard. The same applies to the auxiliary tanks because the excess fuel from the injection systems always flows back into the main tanks independent of which tanks have been selected. So switching to the aux. tanks too early means dumping fuel overboard which means that on short trips one tends not to use the aux. tanks at all. I don’t think anything else but a purpose built fuel totaliser can cope with this kind of system.
Therefore I can understand the reluctancy of the deceased pilot to use his aux. tanks as long as he still had something left in the mains. For takeoff and landing, the mains must be used anyway which explains his mindset even better.

EDDS - Stuttgart

You can use a totaliser with any number of tanks, and it will indicate accurately if

  • you fill everything right up, and
  • if you run dry each one which you are switching away from, and
  • you don’t vent fuel overboard (obviously)

One has a little bit of this issue in a standard SEP where you need to run one of the two wings dry to be completely sure the totaliser reading is right, though obviously in practice one rarely runs that close to the line. I have run a wing down to about 3 USG a few times; it was done by noting the fuel low warning (which happens at 8 USG) and then timing from that point, knowing the fuel flow.

A twin will have two fuel flow transducers – one for each engine.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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