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N553RA accident description

Minnesota map... Minnesota list
Crash location 44.221389°N, 93.918611°W
Nearest city Mankato, MN
44.144689°N, 93.950510°W
5.5 miles away
Tail number N553RA
Accident date 20 Mar 2003
Aircraft type Aero Commander 500-B
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On March 20, 2003, at 0440 central standard time, an Aero Commander 500-B, N553RA, operated by Central Air Southwest, sustained substantial damage when the nose gear collapsed after it experienced a loss of power to both engines and executed a forced landing to a dirt road about 4 miles south of the Mankato Regional Airport (MKT), Mankato, Minnesota. The pilot was not injured. The Title 14 CFR Part 91 positioning flight departed Des Moines International Airport (DSM), Des Moines, Iowa, at 0338, and was en route to the Downtown St. Paul Airport (STP), St. Paul, Minnesota. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight was on an instrument flight plan.

The fuel log of the fixed base operator (FBO) at Eppley Airfield (OMA), Omaha, Nebraska, where the airplane was last serviced, indicated that N553RA was fueled on March 18, 2003, at 2126, with 90.1 gallons of fuel. There were no entries in the fuel log that indicated N533RA had been fueled on March 19th. The airplane was not flown until the pilot departed on March 19th, at 2240.

The pilot reported for duty at 2000, March 19th. He reported that he requested the FBO fuel N533RA. The pilot reported that he checked the oil during the preflight, but he did not observed the airplane being fueled. The pilot reported that prior to departure, he checked the fuel level in the wing tanks. He reported that he stuck his fingers into the fuel tanks to check for fuel, but did not feel any fuel. He reported he looked at the fuel gauges and they indicated the tanks were full. The pilot reported that the fuel gauges would indicate full when the tanks had about 120 gallons of fuel, even though the fuel tanks held 156 gallons. He reported that he did not have a fuel receipt because the fuel was billed directly to the company.

The pilot reported that he departed OMA on March 19, 2003, at 2240, on a Part 135 cargo flight to DSM. The airplane flew one instrument approach and landed in DSM about 2320. The Part 135 flight did not depart to Rochester, Minnesota, at the scheduled time of 0245, due to weather. Instead, the flight departed on its Part 91 positioning flight to STP at 0338.

While en route to STP, the pilot notified air traffic control (ATC) that the airplane's fuel gauges were indicating low fuel. The pilot attempted a VOR instrument approach to the Albert Lee Municipal Airport, Albert Lee, Minnesota, but executed a missed approach due to low ceilings and visibility. ATC issued the pilot radar vectors and a clearance for the approach to MKT. The pilot was flying the ILS Runway 33 instrument approach to MKT when both engines lost power and he executed a forced landing. The pilot landed the airplane on a dirt road, but the nose gear collapsed during the landing roll.

An inspection of the fuel tanks revealed that the wing tanks were empty, and the fuselage tank had 5 quarts of fuel. An inspection of the airplane revealed no fuel leaks.

The Hobbs meter indicated the airplane had flown 1.8 hours since departing OMA.

A Federal Aviation Administration operations inspector interviewed the pilot. The pilot reported to the inspector that he had "run the airplane out of gas."

The Director of Operations of Central Air Southwest reported that the N533RA held 156 gallons of fuel. He reported that the airplane, fueled with 90 gallons of fuel, had about a 3 hour endurance range.

The company's Operation Manual stated the following concerning fueling of aircraft:

"The PIC is responsible for ensuring that the aircraft has the required quantity of fuel for the proposed flight and fueled as specified in Aircraft Fueling Procedures on page B5 of the Operations Manual."

The Operations Manual, "Aircraft Refueling Procedures," stated the following:

"No company aircraft will be fueled unless a pilot or other company employee, experienced in aircraft fueling, is present..….The pilot shall determine the quantity of fuel to be added to the aircraft and that the aircraft is properly grounded."

NTSB Probable Cause

Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate preflight and not verifying the airplane had been refueled.

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