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Cessna forced landing investigation report released

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An investigation into the Oct. 24 forced landing of a Kadena Aero Club Cessna-172 near Nago City concluded that the accident occurred as a result of engine failure brought on by fuel starvation. In his report, the investigating officer determined the aircraft ran out of fuel in flight because of improper fuel planning and poor judgment on the part of the mishap pilot.

The T-41A aircraft, also known as a Cessna 172, took off from Kadena Air Base Oct. 24 at 2:39 p.m. with four people on board. The pilot had filed a flight plan the day before. The aircraft landed at Amami Island at 4:42 p.m. and took off again without refueling at 5:08 p.m. At around 6:15 p.m. during its return leg to Kadena, the aircraft began experiencing engine problems, and the engine failed several minutes later. 

It made a forced landing in a sugar cane field near Nago City around 6:30 p.m. clipping three power lines during its descent. The pilot intentionally chose the sugar cane field as the landing location in order to avoid causing injuries to people on the ground. 

After reviewing all the evidence, the aircraft wreckage and witness testimony, the investigating officer determined that cause of the incident was primarily pilot error as the aircraft ran out of fuel on the return trip, causing the engine to lose power in flight. 

The report offers a series of recommendations to improve Aero Club procedures that may help prevent future mishaps. The 5th Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, is currently reviewing these recommendations and will direct implementation of those he believes will contribute most effectively to safe flying operations. Until these decisions are made and preventive measures are in place, Kadena Aero Club flight operations will remain suspended. 

"The 18th Wing and the Kadena Aero Club are fully committed to conducting safe flying operations," said Col. Kelly Fletcher, 18th Mission Support Group commander. "Even though the primary cause of this accident was pilot error, we are committed to improving our Aero Club operations and procedures to ensure the safety of both our Airmen and the people of Okinawa."