About 50 general aviation accidents a year could be prevented if pilots were better at fuel management, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says.
In Safety Alert 067, issued in late August, the NTSB said that fuel mismanagement was the sixth-leading cause of general aviation accidents in the United States. An analysis of general aviation accidents from 2011 through 2015 found that fuel exhaustion (in which an aircraft runs out of fuel) accounted for 56 percent of fuel-related accidents, and fuel starvation (in which fuel is in the aircraft’s tanks but does not reach the engine) accounted for 35 percent.
Ninety-five percent of all fuel management–related accidents were associated with pilot error, while equipment issues contributed to the remaining 5 percent, the NTSB said.
Data showed that general aviation pilots with private pilot or sport pilot certificates were involved in half of the fuel-related accidents, those with commercial or air transport pilot certificates were involved in 48 percent of fuel-related accidents, and student pilots were involved in 2 percent. The NTSB characterized the findings as “counterintuitive,” but added that “pilot complacency and overestimation of flying ability can play a role in fuel management accidents.”
The safety alert included several recommendations, including:
- “Do not rely exclusively on fuel gauges. Visually confirm the quantity of fuel in the tanks before takeoff.
- “Know the aircraft’s fuel system and how it works.
- “Have a fuel reserve for each flight.
- “Stop and get gas. Don’t stretch the fuel supply.”
The safety alert is available online.