NTSB: Plane was out of gas

Published 7:50 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The National Transportation Safety Board found the probable cause of an Aug. 3 airplane crash in Suffolk to be a lack of fuel.

Pilot James William Beauchamp, 68, of Corapeake, N.C., left the Suffolk Executive Airport about 4:30 p.m. that day with two passengers in his four-seat Mooney M20F plane. After flying around for about an hour, he was “buzzing” his house when the engine lost power. He made an emergency landing on Deer Forest Road and collided with a tree.

Investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration found the fuel tanks were empty, but intact. The airplane’s fuel gauges, however, were not functioning correctly, according to an accident report. The pilot said he had departed with ¼ tank of fuel in the right and left fuel tanks. No other mechanical failure or malfunction was found during the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board found the cause of the accident to be “a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the pilot’s failure to accurately calculate the fuel required for the flight,” adding that the malfunctioning fuel gauges contributed to the accident.

Beauchamp received serious injuries in the accident, according to the report. His two passengers escaped without injuries. The landing on Deer Forest Road went smoothly until the plane was unable to negotiate a turn in the road after landing, caught one wing on a tree and spun into the edge of the woods along the two-lane road.