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Engine Failure after take off due fuel exhaustion

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Engine Failure after take off due fuel exhaustion

Old 11th Sep 2015, 14:50
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Engine Failure after take off due fuel exhaustion

Reading the September 2015 issue of the US flight safety magazine "Aviation Safety" I saw a story where the pilot of a Cessna 140 had an engine failure at 50 feet on take off. The reason for the engine failure was extremely low fuel contents even though the gauges showed full.

Now here is the fascinating bit. There was insufficient runway to land ahead and beyond that was a river and houses. Certainly not the best area to force land. So the pilot gently shook the wings with aileron giving a momentary return of power and thus enough altitude allowing a 180 degree turn to a dead stick landing on the runway.

I have never heard of that technique before when waggling the wings may get some remaining fuel back to the engine.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 17:02
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Originally Posted by ADFUS View Post
Or you could just use a dipstick like a normal person and never be in that situation to begin with.
I have never ever in 35yrs of flying used a dipstick for fuel.
Am I not normal?
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 17:14
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I hope you are not normal.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 19:32
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Sounds to me like one smart cookie who has been around puddle jumpers for a while. I would not be surprised to learn that this titbit had been passed down a few generations: and guess what....it continues to be passed down.

In my days with low wings a/c it was common, on the walk round to peek into the tanks. One great difficulty with high wing. I'd be curious how both fuel sensors/gauges could be wrong. Take off with L/R selected is one thing; stutter and change tanks, but for both gauges to show an erroneous amount is smelly.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 19:40
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Visual check!

I always visually checked to see fuel in the tanks and almost always filled them to the top.

Last edited by stator vane; 11th Sep 2015 at 19:40. Reason: Tense
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 19:49
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During the course of my PPL we were taught to visually check the fuel tank contents on the C152. I'm very surprised some people don't.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 19:59
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I have never ever in 35yrs of flying used a dipstick for fuel.
Am I not normal?
No, just limited on what types you've operated- for instance, I had fuel dip-sticks for my Pitts and Extra, and I think you had to dip the Chipmunk.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 20:00
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I always visually checked to see fuel in the tanks and almost always filled them to the top.
Did you then fill the available seats?
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 20:06
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You must not have flown the DC4.
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 20:19
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I've looked in tanks, I've had drop down thingys and I've had captions and I've had digital readouts and moving bars and dials and totalisers.

That's across Airliners to Fast Jets to Helicopters big and small to Turboprops.

I suspect the majority are like me..

Not many real aircraft have dipsticks.....
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Old 11th Sep 2015, 20:26
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Sure- but the OP is regarding a Cessna 140.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 04:03
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The fuel gauges don't work on that type?
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 04:13
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The fuel gauges don't work accurately on most GA aircraft, especially those over 60 years old.
Old pilots never go past a piss stop or fuel bowser without taking advantage of both.
But I did like the wing waggling memory item from the emergency checklist; must remember that one!
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 04:55
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Fuel Dipsticks

After a lifetime, well at least since age 17, in aviation I have always used a visual check of tank contents where possible, or a known uplift of fuel plus indicated fuel remaining prior to refuel, to determine fuel on board for flight.

Anyone who gets airborne without ensuring there is sufficient fuel aboard for the intended flight is not only being negligent but also very foolish. The pilot in the incident cited by Centaurus obviously did not visually check the fuel in tanks on the Cessna and, I would suggest, was very fortunate to have recovered sufficient fuel to conduct the turn-back.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 08:27
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They do but you'd be a fool to rely on them all the time
That is true for sure. I never trusted or even used the gauges in the Cessnas I flew, or the BE-58 either.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 09:39
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If I am not mistaken that 180 degrees turn is called "the impossible turn"

With engine failure at 50 feet he couldn't have turned back, so he made it with the last 5 second of engine life.. Did he forget to open the fuel valve? Or it was really empty tank? I heard of a similar incident many many years ago where the pilot forgot to open the fuel valve after the fuel check (don't remember the procedures on small aircrafts) at the holding point. So he took off and after 2 min he found himself without the eng and made an emergency landing.
Then during the investigation it was proved that he used just the fuel remaining in the from the valve to the eng.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 10:42
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Originally Posted by Old Fella View Post
Anyone who gets airborne without ensuring there is sufficient fuel aboard for the intended flight is not only being negligent but also very foolish.
Then the majority of the worlds military pilots and airline pilots are negligent then if by "ensuring" you mean a visual check.....


Not many pilots (none I've ever met) of big toys ever personally check a tank.

Didn't know that about toy Cessnas though.

I find it slightly strange that the response to unreliable fuel gauges is to check visually rather than force Cessna to fit gauges that work.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 10:54
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How do Cessna 152 fuel gauges work? I can't remember - do they have a float and a thermal gauge like a car? If so they are very crude and prone to misreading and malfunction, especially on an old aircraft.

Modern airliners have multiple point capacitance fuel level measuring devices in each tank - all of which have to agree with other to give a reading on the fuel gauge. We also calculate how many litres we will need to load the fuel we want, and we cross check that with the literage delivered by the fuel bowser. If the actual figure is more than 5% different to the calculated figure, we have to "dip" the tanks and find out where the discrepancy is.

One of the most fundamental things to get right in aviation is to be absolutely sure that the fuel you need for your flight is present and on-board in the tanks. Getting this wrong is potentially life threatening, so should never be assumed or treated lightly.

If you run out of fuel in an aircraft, you can't pull over to the side of the road and call the AA..........

The Cessnas I flew back in the day all had a wooden dip stick in the shape of a T that we used to double check the fuel level in the tanks.

@tourist: even if you have perfect fuel measuring systems, you should always double check something as fundamental as the amount of fuel on board.

Last edited by Uplinker; 12th Sep 2015 at 11:06.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 11:31
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What an amazing thread!

Light aircraft:

Visual check "full" or dipstick for quantity. High wing or low wing. Gauges as useful as a nun's nipples.

Heavy aircraft:

Two independent methods to verify fuel quantity, or stick check. The two independent methods are normally fuel remaining plus fuel uplift = gauge reading +/- a tolerance. Fuel remaining is verified at end of flight by fuel load - fuel used = gauge reading +/- a tolerance and estimated transit/hangar fuel used.

I have always thought these rules of the air to be as entrenched globally as a pre-flight walkaround.

Obviously not.
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Old 12th Sep 2015, 12:40
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Not many real aircraft have dipsticks.....
One exception was the DC3 and that was a real aircraft.
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