Pilot Said He Was "Sure" He Had Enough Fuel

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A charter pilot who relied solely on fuel gauges to calculate his fuel load and admits he "guesstimated" the weight of his passengers said he was sure he had enough fuel to make it to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, from a remote fishing lake in 2002. The irony was that Mark Tayfel did make the field with one engine running, but his Keystone Airlines Piper Navajo, with six passengers aboard, was high and hot and he had to go around. His second engine quit on the go-around and the aircraft bounced off a bus, sliced the back off a truck and came to rest near a gas station at a Winnipeg intersection. One passenger later died from his injuries, but Tayfel and the others survived. Tayfel told a Winnipeg court that he found out later that there was a problem with the fuel gauges and he would have taken "extra precautions" had he known. The aircraft was loaded with 850 pounds of fuel for the flight to Gunisao Lake Lodge, a round trip of about 300 miles that Tayfel said normally takes about 720 pounds of fuel. Fuel is available at the lodge but, against the advice of a pilot who accompanied him there, Tayfel decided not to refuel for the return trip. "In my mind there was a safe amount to get me there and back with fuel to spare," he told Queen's Bench Justice Holly Beard. The plane was also flying without an autopilot. The court was told that on his approach to Winnipeg International Airport, the aircraft came out of the clouds too high and too fast to make the runway. Tayfel was initially hailed as a hero for guiding the aircraft to an emergency landing with no immediate loss of life. The airline, the fishing lodge and Transport Canada are being sued by the survivors and the estate of the man who died, 79-year-old Kansas resident Chester Jones. Meanwhile, Tayfel is currently in court facing several criminal charges, including criminal negligence causing death, four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous operation of an aircraft.