National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Final Report




Tillatoba, MS

Accident Number:


Date & Time:

09/02/2012, 2054 CDT





Aircraft Damage:


Defining Event:

Fuel exhaustion


1 Serious

Flight Conducted Under:

Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


When the pilot planned the long cross-country flight, he told flight service personnel that he expected to have to deviate due to thunderstorms. The pilot further stated that he would stop short of the destination airport if he could not safely navigate around thunderstorm cells. About 5 hours into the flight, the pilot notified an air traffic controller that he was going to deviate to a nearby alternate airport, which was in clear weather conditions. As a result, flight-following services were terminated when the airplane was about 10 miles from the alternate airport. According to global positioning system (GPS) data and a witness on the ground, the airplane flew safely over the alternate airport and circled; however, rather than land, the airplane continued to fly toward the original planned destination. About 10 minutes later, GPS data showed that the airplane reversed its course toward the alternate airport. The airplane’s engine subsequently lost total engine power and the airplane collided with trees during the ensuing forced landing. The pilot reported that he was unable to recall the accident sequence because of accident-related injuries.

Postaccident examination of the engine, which included a successful test-run, did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. At the time of the accident, the airplane had flown 5 hours 28 minutes without refueling. According to the pilot’s operating handbook for the accident airplane, the airplane's endurance at 70% power was about 5 hours 10 minutes, not accounting for fuel used during engine start, taxi, takeoff, or climb.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper fuel management and his decision to continue flight in deteriorating weather conditions with low fuel, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.



Fuel - Fluid management (Cause)

Personnel issues

Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)

Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

On September 2, 2012, at 2054 central daylight time, a Cessna T210M, N761YN, operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees during a forced landing, following a total loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Tillatoba, Mississippi. The private pilot was seriously injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Suffolk Executive Airport (SFQ), Suffolk, Virginia, about 1526; destined for Olive Branch Airport (OLV), Olive Branch, Mississippi.

The pilot telephoned flight service at 1505 and received a weather briefing for the planned visual flight rules (VFR) flight from SFQ to OLV. The flight service specialist advised of thunderstorms along the planned route of flight due to the remnants of Hurricane Isaac and he did not recommend VFR flight. The pilot remarked about deviating south to avoid thunderstorms, rather than flying a direct route to his planned destination. He further indicated that he may delay the flight, or land at a closer airport if weather deteriorated, and he declined any further weather briefing information from the flight service specialist.

According to a fuel receipt, the airplane was completely fueled at SFQ about 1 hour prior to departure. Review of data recovered from a handheld global positioning system (GPS) receiver revealed that the airplane departed at 1526 and flew a course south of a direct route to OLV. Additionally, the airplane did not stop while enroute to OLV. The last GPS point was recorded near the accident site at 2054, indicating a GPS altitude of 469 feet and a groundspeed of 67 knots. The GPS data indicated that the accident flight was 5 hours 28 minutes long.

According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airplane was in radio and radar contact with Memphis Center. At 1925, the controller advised the pilot of severe weather at OLV. The pilot acknowledged the information and added that he was seeing the same thing at OLV. At 1955, the pilot stated that he was still 45 minutes away from OLV due to deviations and that the severe weather may move out of the area by the time he arrived. At 2010, the Memphis Center controller telephoned a Memphis Approach controller to get more weather information pertaining to OLV. The Memphis Approach controller advised that the severe weather was moving to the southeast at only 12 knots and it would be a while before it was clear of the area. The Memphis Center controller relayed the information to the pilot, which he acknowledged. The pilot then advised that he planned to divert to University-Oxford Airport (UOX), Oxford, Mississippi, which the controller acknowledged.

At 2024, the pilot advised that he was diverting to Water Valley Municipal Airport (33M), Water Valley, Mississippi, as lighting was getting too close to UOX. The controller acknowledged the new destination, advised of no traffic between the airplane and 33M, and terminated radar services with an instruction to the pilot to enter a VFR transponder code. The pilot acknowledged the instruction and thanked the controller for his help. No further communications were received from the accident airplane. At that time, the airplane was about 10 miles south of 33M. It descended and circled over 33M at 2029, but then continued north until 2040, where it reversed course near Panola County Airport (PMU), Batesville, Mississippi. The airplane subsequently flew in a southerly direction until the end of the data, which was approximately 13 miles west-southwest of 33M.

A witness, who was driving his car near 33M about 2030, stated that he saw an airplane with its landing lights on and descending, as if it was going to land at 33M. At the time, the weather conditions were good at the airport with no ceiling, a slight breeze, and the runway lights were on. The airplane then flew northwest parallel to the runway and the witness thought that the pilot was setting up for an approach from the north; however, the airplane continued northwest out of sight. At the time, severe storms were present to the north and northeast.

Examination of the wreckage by an FAA inspector revealed that both wings separated during impact and no evidence of fuel was observed in the vicinity of the accident site. Additionally, the propeller blades exhibited little to no rotational damage. The engine was examined after the airplane was recovered to a hangar. The examination, which included a successful test-run of the engine, did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on August 26, 2010. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 2,525 hours. Due to his injuries, the pilot could not recall the accident sequence.

Review of an endurance chart, contained in a pilot's operating handbook for the same make and model airplane, revealed that at 70 percent power, the airplane had an endurance of approximately 5 hours 10 minutes, which did not account for fuel used for engine start, taxi, takeoff, and climb.


History of Flight


Navigation error

Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)

Loss of engine power (total)

Emergency descent

Off-field or emergency landing

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)



Pilot Information




59, Male

Airplane Rating(s):

Single-engine Land

Seat Occupied:


Other Aircraft Rating(s):


Restraint Used:

Seatbelt, Shoulder harness

Instrument Rating(s):


Second Pilot Present:


Instructor Rating(s):


Toxicology Performed:


Medical Certification:

Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations

Last FAA Medical Exam:


Occupational Pilot:


Last Flight Review or Equivalent:


Flight Time:

2525 hours (Total, all aircraft)



Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make:






Aircraft Category:


Year of Manufacture:


Amateur Built:


Airworthiness Certificate:


Serial Number:


Landing Gear Type:

Retractable - Tricycle



Date/Type of Last Inspection:

10/13/2011, Annual

Certified Max Gross Wt.:

3800 lbs

Time Since Last Inspection:

34 Hours


1 Reciprocating

Airframe Total Time:

4270 Hours as of last inspection

Engine Manufacturer:



Installed, activated, aided in locating accident

Engine Model/Series:


Registered Owner:


Rated Power:

285 hp



Operating Certificate(s) Held:



Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:

Visual Conditions

Condition of Light:


Observation Facility, Elevation:

UOX, 452 ft msl

Distance from Accident Site:

27 Nautical Miles

Observation Time:

2035 CDT

Direction from Accident Site:


Lowest Cloud Condition:



10 Miles

Lowest Ceiling:


Visibility (RVR):


Wind Speed/Gusts:

9 knots /

Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:


Wind Direction:


Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:


Altimeter Setting:

29.85 inches Hg

Temperature/Dew Point:

29°C / 22°C

Precipitation and Obscuration:

No Obscuration; No Precipitation

Departure Point:

Suffolk, VA (SFQ)

Type of Flight Plan Filed:



Olive Branch, MS (OLV)

Type of Clearance:

VFR Flight Following

Departure Time:

1526 CDT

Type of Airspace:




Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries:

1 Serious

Aircraft Damage:


Passenger Injuries:


Aircraft Fire:


Ground Injuries:


Aircraft Explosion:


Total Injuries:

1 Serious

Latitude, Longitude:

34.008056, -89.865833 (est)



Administrative Information

Investigator In Charge (IIC):

Robert J Gretz

Report Date:


Additional Participating Persons:

Robert F Mahaffey; FAA/FSDO; Jackson, MS

Nicole Charnon; Continental Motors Inc.; Mobile, AL

Andrew Hall; Cessna Aircraft Company; Wichita, KS

Publish Date:


Investigation Docket: