Dipstick error leads to pilot making emergency landing

Cessna177A aircraft had to change its course to a field in Meath after running out of fuel

A pilot who used the wrong dipstick to test fuel levels on his aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in a field after running out of fuel, an incident report has found.

The Cessna 177A aircraft, which was travelling to Navan Airfield, had to divert to a field in Dunsany, Co Meath during the flight home from an aviation conference in Shannon on 21st January 2017.

The 28-year-old flight commander left Shannon carrying two passengers, and the first leg of the journey to Weston Airport in Dublin passed off without incident. One passenger alighted at Weston, and the pilot then took off for Navan.

However, a sudden loss of power occurred while cruising at 1,500 feet near Clarkestown Mast in Meath, at which point a mayday call was transmitted.


The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report noted that the pilot then picked out a field some 20km south of Navan and chose to land downhill "in fear of losing/not making the field". A bumpy touchdown was subsequently achieved, with no injuries or damage to the aircraft.

The pilot, who had only seven hours of flying experience on that type of plane prior to the incident, told AAIU inspectors that he recalled being satisfied with the levels in both the left and right wing tanks after testing them with a dipstick prior to take-off.

During a phone call with an AAIU official immediately after the emergency landing, the pilot expressed a wish to continue the final leg to Navan, but it was suggested that engaging in further flight before first ascertaining the cause of the sudden power loss was “unwise”.


It later became clear during the course of the same conversation that the pilot had in fact used the dipstick for a Cessna172 which measures in US gallons equivalent to around four litres, as opposed to the dipstick for a Cessna 177A which measures in litres.

With the original error in mind, the pilot and remaining passenger then flew the rest of the way to Navan following a refuel and arrived at their destination without further incident.

The AAIU report praised the pilot’s actions in landing the plane which it said demonstrated “good presence of mind” after “an erroneously high estimate of the aircraft’s fuel state was obtained.”

It was added that the event in question “should serve as a reminder to general aviation pilots of the importance of effective fuel management and of checking the compatibility of ancillary equipment with their specific aircraft.”