February 1999 Issue

Gasping for Gas

Many fuel exhaustion accidents share three common mistakes

The return trip from mid-state New York to Nashua, N.H., was being made with some urgency. The pilot had an important meeting to attend. The meeting became the last thing on his mind, however, when the engine coughed to a stop only part way home.

His very first thoughts: “Oh damn! I’m going to splatter myself among the trees below and kill myself! I can just hear my friends at the funeral. ‘He seemed to be a pretty smart fellow, how could he do something so stupid?’ ”

After his initial shock at the silence, he became focused on the problem at hand. Rock the wings, there’s always some fuel left in the tanks. The engine sputtered a few minutes and then quit again. He spied a small field...

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