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AIN'T GOT NO GAS - Improper fuel planning leads to aircraft crash

  • Published
  • By Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)
An accident investigation board recently determined a Bombardier DHC-8/Q200 crashed Nov. 19, 2009, because of the aircrew's failure to properly fuel plan and then refuel with enough gas to reach their destination.

The aircraft, assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron, 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, was conducting a passenger and cargo transportation sortie in support of U.S. Africa Command. But while on the mission, the aircraft, piloted by the aircraft commander, crash-landed in an isolated field nearly 61 miles north-northwest of its destination and some seven miles west of its emergency divert airstrip in western Africa.

The crew -- consisting of the aircraft commander, copilot and loadmaster -- and all six passengers suffered at least minor injuries, with one passenger sustaining severe injuries. The aircraft was a total loss with a cost estimate of $7 million.

When the aircraft arrived at its first stop. The crew had diplomatic clearance to on-load 4,000 liters of fuel. Although two fuel trucks arrived, the mishap pilots determined fuel was not necessary, and the aircraft commander decided not to refuel. As the aircraft climbed to 24,000 feet, the crew received indications of a fuel shortage. The aircraft commander diverted the aircraft to an airstrip 12 miles closer and began a descent.

During the descent, the right engine shut down from fuel exhaustion. Then, 29 seconds prior to impact, the left engine began to shut down, also from fuel exhaustion.

In addition to improper fuel planning, investigators found that once airborne, despite indications of a fuel shortage, the crew did not divert to a suitable alternate airport early enough in the sortie to avoid this mishap. The accident investigation board also found sufficient evidence to conclude the following factors substantially contributed to the mishap: insufficient mission and flight planning; faulty decision-making; complacency; task misprioritization; channelized attention; and the crew pressing to meet mission demands.

A thorough review of the aircraft and maintenance records revealed that neither the condition of the aircraft, nor the performance of any maintenance operations played a role in the accident, board members concluded.