Noting that improved fuel management could prevent an average of 50 general aviation accidents a year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued a new safety alert, “Flying on Empty,” to highlight issues surrounding fuel-related accidents.
“Running out of fuel in a car is an inconvenience,” the Safety Board said. “Running out of fuel in an aircraft is unthinkable, and yet it causes more accidents than anyone might imagine.”
Fuel management is the sixth leading cause of general aviation accidents in the U.S., the NTSB noted. Fuel exhaustion, when an aircraft runs out of fuel, was involved in 56 percent of the fuel management-related accidents. Fuel starvation, when fuel is present but doesn’t reach the engine, accounted for another 35 percent. Pilot error was a contributing factor in 95 percent of those accidents; equipment issues contributed to just 5 percent.
Most of the fuel-management accidents occurred when the destination airport differed from the departure airport, and 80 percent occurred during day visual meteorological conditions, the NTSB noted.
Nearly half of the fuel management-related accidents involve pilots holding commercial or air transport pilot certificates. Only 2 percent involve student pilots.
In Safety Alert 067, the NTSB highlights basic steps pilots can take to better manage fuel, including knowing how much is on board at all times and confirming fuel quantity during preflight inspection. Ensuring fuel needs and fuel reserves before flight and knowing engine burn rate were also among the preventive measures cited by the NTSB.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association also recently raised concerns about fuel management in its release of the Air Safety Institute's most recent Joseph T. Nall report.