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N1922D accident description

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Crash location 43.722500°N, 85.503889°W
Nearest city Big Rapids, MI
43.680301°N, 85.503656°W
2.9 miles away
Tail number N1922D
Accident date 04 Apr 2004
Aircraft type Beech C35
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On April 4, 2004, at 1450 eastern daylight time, a Beech C35, N1922D, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing near Roben-Hood Airport (RQB), Big Rapids, Michigan, after a loss of engine power. The pilot received minor injuries and the passenger received serious injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 local maintenance flight departed from the RQB at 1330. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed.

The pilot reported that the engine had just been overhauled and reinstalled on the airplane. He and an airframe and powerplants mechanic (A&P) conducted an engine ground run with satisfactory results. After the ground run, a flight test was conducted. The pilot reported that they departed with the right fuel tank selected, climbed to 8,500 feet mean sea level, and circled the airport while checking the engine performance.

The pilot reported the "only thing different than usual was that the fuel pressure was at the top of the green arc, which would indicate that it was putting out nearly 15 psi. The previous fuel pump had put out 9 psi, and operated near the bottom of the green arc."

The pilot started the descent for landing after an hour of flying, and it took another 10 minutes to descend. He reported he left the fuel selector on the right tank. He stated, "Based on prior aircraft performance, we had plenty of fuel in the right tank to land."

He made a steep approach to land at RQB. He put in full flaps when he was 500 feet above the ground and about 1,200 feet from the runway, but he reported the increased drag and headwind required that he add power. He reported, "I reached for the throttle and pushed it in, and nothing happened." He could not restore engine power before the airplane impacted the ground. Although injured, the pilot and the A&P were able to exit the airplane.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector examined the airplane. He reported there were 6 gallons of fuel in the left fuel tank, and 2.5 gallons of fuel in the right fuel tank. The wing fuel tanks each hold 20 gallons of fuel with 17 gallons being useable fuel. The inspection revealed no airframe or engine anomalies.

The pilot reported, "I think what happened was that the increased fuel pump pressure transferred the fuel from the right tank into the left tank at an accelerated rate, and I had no idea that I was getting that close to empty. The engine was idling right up until I put the throttle to the wall."

The engine was removed from the airframe and sent to an aircraft engine maintenance facility. An engine run was conducted under the supervision of an FAA airworthiness inspector. The inspector reported, "The engine started and ran smoothly up to 1,080 RPMs." The propeller blades were bent and the inspector reported that it was unsafe to run the engine at a higher RPM. The magnetos were checked at 1,080 RPMs and neither dropped more than 25 RPMs. The engine idled at 600 RPMs.

The pilot reported that he departed with 20 gallons of fuel in the right fuel tank, 5 gallons of fuel in the left fuel tank, and 10 gallons of fuel in the auxiliary tank. The Beechcraft Bonanza C35 Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) states: "Take-offs should be made using the left main tank and landings should be made using the main tank that is more nearly full. In no case should a take-off be made if the fuel indications are in the yellow band or, with less than 10 gallons of fuel in each main tank." The POH also states: "The pressure type carburetor returns about 3 gallons per hour of excess fuel to the left main cell regardless of the cell selected."

NTSB Probable Cause

The total loss of engine power due to the pilot's improper fuel management which led to fuel starvation.

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