Accident to the Robin DR400-180 registered F-GFXE on 28/07/2018 at Charleville-Mézières (Ardennes)

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

Cat. 2 investigation report: simplified-format report, adapted to the circumstances of the occurrence and the investigation stakes.

The pilot of F-GFXE, as president of the flying club, had almost exclusively taken charge of managing the aeronautical aspects of the day.

No safety management system was set up and the risks related to this type of event were not the subject of a prior study. This meant that the significant number of rotations to be carried out with respect to the club’s capabilities and the inherent dangers of this situation were not explicitly identified. However, the pilot, the organizer of this day, was probably aware that the day’s schedule was tight and probably felt under time pressure to carry out the flight.

When the pilot took charge of the aeroplane, the right fuel tank was probably selected. The investigation was unable to establish if the pilot selected another tank before starting up the engine or between start-up and take-off. He did not carry out a briefing and did not use the check -lists to ensure that no item was omitted.

During the take-off run, the pilot probably moved the tank selector possibly to correct an omission to check the fuel tank selected before take-off.

Following this action, the low fuel level light came on. Shortly after, the pilot very certainly moved the control again without rejecting the take-off even though there was ample available runway to stop safely, following which the red light went off. The investigation was not able to determine which fuel tank was selected on completion of these actions. The fuel pressure started to fluctuate, reaching a minimum value when the aeroplane had reached a height of 140 ft, probably resulting in the shut-down of the engine.

Given the height of the aeroplane and the topography of the aerodrome’s environment, gliding in a straight line on this QFU would have probably led to a collision with the vegetation in a wooded area. It is possible that this contributed to the pilot’s decision to turn left. During this manoeuvre, although the stall warning was sounding, the pilot held a nose-up pitch, which led to the aircraft’s speed quickly dropping and its subsequent stall in the following seconds.

The investigation was not able to determine with certitude the reason behind the decrease in engine power but it is probable that it was due to the engine being starved of fuel. It is also probable that this failure was the result of the fuel selector being moved by the pilot. During the take-off run, he may have selected in error or due to confusion, a fuel tank which was nearly empty.

The investigation was not able to exclude the possibility of a malfunction of the fuel supply components.