Fuel exhaustion eyed in King Air crash

 - November 1, 2007, 5:30 AM

The preliminary NTSB report of the September 19 Beech King Air B90 crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., indicates that the pilot ran out of fuel during a flight from Birmingham International Airport in Alabama to Georgetown Scott County Airport in Georgetown, Ky. The airplane landed in a parking lot, cartwheeled into several cars and hit a light pole. The ATP-rated pilot and three passengers suffered minor injuries.

According to the NTSB report, the pilot told investigators that all four fuel gauges were between the three-quarters and full position during the preflight inspection, leading him to believe that the airplane had approximately three hours of fuel for the one-hour, 20-minute flight from Alabama to Kentucky. Before departing from Alabama, he “only looked at the right two full gauges. The nacelle tank was between half and three-quarters, and the wing tank was ‘pegged.’” The pilot told investigators that “this sometimes happened on start up, and then would settle down.” He added, “This seemed consistent with what I thought should be on the aircraft.”

The pilot departed Birmingham, and after leveling off at FL210 he “happened to look at the two left gauges and noticed that they were practically empty.” The nearest airport, Lovell Field, was 45 miles away and he had approximately 50 gallons of fuel. He told investigators he thought he could make it and diverted toward Lovell Field.
While on short final, the left engine quit, followed by the right engine, according to the NTSB report. The pilot told investigators that there were no mechanical or flight control issues with the airplane before the emergency landing.

Emergency responders reported that there was a small amount of fuel spillage at the crash site, and an FAA inspector determined that the nacelle tanks and wing tanks were empty of fuel at the time of the crash.

Eric Alleyne, the NTSB investigator in charge of the investigation, said the final report should be published within the next few months. He told AIN that the NTSB has not yet made any determinations about the official cause of the crash.