Fuel exhaustion brings down 182 a level physics electricity equations

We are all Monday morning quarterbacks here, and we don’t have all the facts…..just what was in the original article. As for any inaccessibility to the fuel tanks of a high wing Cessna, Sarah is correct in that many vendors like Sporty’s sell fold-up steps that can be tossed in the baggage bay. Even better, access steps used to be sold by Cessna as service kits that provided steps that are bolted to the boot cowl and at the lift strut midpoint. I installed many of these on models 150, 172, and 182 when I worked at a BAL-based Cessna dealership many years ago.

As for ordering fuel and not receiving it, that brings to mind a humerous but true story. When I was at that Cessna dealership, we also had a Part 135 air taxi operation. We had one charter pilot I’ll call Warren who used to fly for us, but who also flew a B-25 on the field, owned by a non-pilot plane collector. One day, Warren completed a trip in our C-402B, and he stopped by the FBO and ordered fuel “for my airplane”. Then he jumped back in the 402 and proceeded to the tie-down area. About an hour later, an FBO fuel guy stopped by our office with a fuel receipt for Warren. It was for nearly 900 gallons of fuel. As it was, the guy topped off not the 402, but the B-25 !!

Could it be that he had ordered the refueling at some time and it never actually was performed? The article or other NTSB information never said were he departed from but it could be that he departed from his home airport in CA. This would not be the first case of a pilot ordering fuel at the home field (where they had an account) and it never got done. Still if the pilot actually performed a proper preflight it would have been clear that the tanks had not been filled so that is a mark against him but in no way is it basis for such harsh judgement. It was an older “A” model and it did not have the step points retrofitted that were included in more recent models. So it would take a small step ladder to actually check the tanks contents, something which is not always handy in a tie-down area.

Now that he did not get refueled as expected (an assumption) he possibly had a more modern fuel management system installed based on the wording of his comments. That would be a system that measures fuel flow to calculate fuel remaining based on an initial setting. Thinking he had full tanks he would have entered that into the system and it would start counting down from there. He got lucky on one side which might not have been used on the previous flight but not the other side which had not started from full.

So that is a best guess at what might have been going on but never got detailed into any NTSB report. Yes it was poor judgement on the pilots point that I think got him to end up on a road five miles from an airport but still a scenario that keeps reoccuring in GA and needs to be stopped. If you have a high wing like this one without the built in step points to inspect the fuel tanks than get a small portable step that can be kept in the baggage area, there are plenty of examples on the market for just that purpose. And if you use an electronic system to determine fuel left based on what is consumed then be sure the tanks are full when you tell it that. Even if such a system was used the tanks still are required to have conventional gauges so take the time to actually look at them.

I see a lot of comments that have harsh criticism but this is a situation that could easily happen to anyone at any time if some carelessness creeps into their preflight routine. I think “There are Those That Have and Those That Will” is the situation here and we all need to be extra cautious to not end up in the “Those That Have” side. After a few decades of doing the same thing every time you might start to get careless and that can happen at any level of license.