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Air Safety InstituteOne year ago this week, a commercial pilot learned a valuable lesson about the need for a thorough preflight, when his Cessna 172 suffered an engine failure and hit power lines on descent. Both the pilot and his passenger were seriously injured.

The June 27, 2002 accident occurred while the pilot was returning from a local flight, after the engine began to lose power about one mile from the runway. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude, and attempted to fly under the power lines near the airport, but struck one. The airplane flipped inverted and came to rest in a field ¼ of a mile from the runway.

Upon investigation, the NTSB found large quantities of dirt in the fuel tanks. Dirt was also found in the fuel strainer and the carburetor fuel screen. The pilot did not report completing a preflight inspection prior to departure.

The NTSB determined this accident was caused by the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in fuel starvation due to fuel system contamination.

According to the Cessna 172G POH, the fuel tank quick drain valves and the fuel strainer should be checked prior to the first flight of the day and after each refueling in order to clear the fuel system of any contaminants.

For more information about fuel related accidents, you can view or download ASI's Safety Advisor, Fuel Awareness.

This accident report as well as others can be found in ASI's Online Database.

Original publication date: June 27, 2003.