Bill Law

The NTSB Probable Cause report is out for the Bill Law fatal crash.

The summary reads

The National Tranportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows.
The pilot’s mismanagement of the fuel by his failure to select the proper fuel tank which resulted in starvation of subsequent loss of engine power in both engines.

The Factual report notes that the plane had run for 3 hours on the outboard fuel tanks, (which is just about the theoretical maximum for the fuel supply from those tanks) and that the Information Manual for this aircraft says not to use the outboard tanks for maneuvering flight such as take-off or landing when they’re less than half full because of the danger the tank outlets could “unport” and start sucking air. The inboard tanks were full, but were not selected.

The thought that such an experienced pilot as Bill could make such a mistake is chilling. But I can speculate that maybe the tank on the side of the engine that had just been serviced was the first one to run dry, and he thought it was a problem with the engine rather than checking his fuel selector.

I am thankful that the planes I fly have a much simpler fuel management system than that Piper Navajo – no inboard/outboard tank switching, no cross feeds, just a simple left/right switch. I also carry as much fuel as I can, even for a simple trip to Batavia.