A Cessna 208B Super Cargomaster had completed two flights and was being readied for a positioning flight from Lorain County Regional Airport (Ohio, USA) to Anderson Municipal Airport (Indiana, USA). The aircraft had started its flights that day with 2200 pounds of fuel in the tanks. On arrival at Lorain County Airport, 1600 pounds remained, balanced between the tanks.
The aircraft in its final position (Source; baaa-acro.com © Unknown)
After completion of the necessary flight preparations, the aircraft took off at 17:05, climbing out at a speed of around 95 knots at a pitch of ~12,5 degrees. At an altitude of approximately 2200 feet, the pilot noticed a decrease in engine torque. Followed by the fuel low-pressure light illuminating with a fuel flow lower than normal. The fuel boost pump and ignition were switched on but there was no change in fuel flow and the fuel low-pressure light remained illuminated. Changes in the power lever setting did not result in a change in engine power, the power lever was left in the full power position. The pilot then noticed that the engine noise was decreasing, the engine was spooling down.
It was less than minutes after take-off when the pilot reported to ATC he would be returning to the airport, 25 seconds later radio contact with the aircraft was lost.
The fuselage as seen in June 2008 (© Scott B)
The pilot made a forced landing in a field, with the aircraft coming to a rest inverted. The pilot evacuated the aircraft after it came to a stop sustaining minor injuries. The wreckage was inspected by an FAA inspector who made the following observations;
Left fuel selector - OFF
Right fuel selector - Between On and Off
Power lever - Full forward
Emergency power lever - In NORMAL position with safety wire intact
Left-wing separated from the fuselage
Vertical stabiliser crushed
Fuel Select Off Warning light not seated (when reseated and tested it worked)
After recovery from the accident site, the engine was tested by the manufacturer and no unusual conditions or behaviour were observed. A representative of the aircraft manufacturer stated that there would be enough fuel in the system, downstream from the fuel selector valve for the airplane to take off and fly for a few miles prior to experiencing fuel exhaustion. System testing on the wreckage revealed that the fuel selector warning horn was not working. Combined with the Fuel Select Off Warning light not being seated, the pilot would not be informed about a fuel selection error.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to verify the position of the fuel selectors prior to takeoff, which resulted in a power loss due to fuel starvation. A factor was the failure of the fuel selector warning horn.
The NTSB report which served as a source for this blog can be accessed by clicking on the .pdf file below;