On March 18, 1999, about 1835 hours Pacific standard time, a Canadian registered Aero Commander 500B, CFBCR, owned and operated by the pilot, experienced a total loss of engine power during initial climb from the Shelter Cove (uncontrolled) Airport, Shelter Cove, California. The pilot ditched the airplane in shallow Pacific Ocean water about 1.5 miles south of the airport, about 0.25 miles off shore. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was performed under 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane was destroyed, and the Canadian airline transport pilot and the passenger were seriously injured. The flight originated from Shelter Cove about 1830.

The passenger verbally reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that she had observed the airplane's fuel gauge prior to takeoff, and she recalled it registered a total of about 40 gallons. Because no fuel was available at Shelter Cove, the pilot intended to takeoff and proceed to Willits, about 15 minutes away.

In summary, in the pilot's completed report and during a verbal interview, he indicated that based upon his experience flying the airplane, upon departure he anticipated having between 30 and 40 gallons of fuel. During initial climb upon reaching an altitude of about 400 feet, both engines simultaneously lost power. He then rocked the airplane's wings and experienced a "short surge of power." However, it lasted only a brief moment and all engine power was again totally lost to both engines. The pilot turned toward the shoreline, reduced airspeed and ditched. The overnight tide/wave action subsequently beached most of the airplane. In the pilot's report, he did not indicate having experienced any mechanical malfunctions.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) coordinator examined recovered portions of the airframe and engines. In pertinent part, the FAA reported finding no physical evidence of any mechanical malfunction with the examined components. (See the attached FAA statement for specific details.)

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