On May 28, 1994, at 1620 central daylight time, a Lockheed P-38, N38LL, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Breckenridge, Texas. The airline transport rated pilot sustained minor injuries and the passenger was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight.

Witnesses reported to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, that they observed the airplane takeoff and "appear to have trouble gaining altitude." They further reported they observed the airplane "yaw" and the left propeller go to the feather position.

The pilot/operator report stated the following information. The pilot had a total of 3 hours and forty-one minutes in this make and model of airplane prior to this flight, of which one hour and forty-one minutes were within the last 30 days. The left engine lost power, and then regained normal power. The right engine lost power, followed by the left engine. Then both engines began to surge. The left engine again lost power, and the propeller was feathered. During the emergency descent the right engine continued to surge. During the landing, the airplane struck numerous trees.

The FAA inspector reported physical evidence indicating that the left propeller was feathered and that the right propeller was wind milling. Inspection of the cockpit revealed that only the left propeller switch was in the feather position. The fuel selector valve was in the drop tank position, and drop tanks were not installed.

Inspection of the fuel system revealed both main fuel tanks contained fuel to a level of approximately 4 inches below the filler opening. Both sumps of the main tanks were drained and appeared to contain clean aviation fuel. The two reserve tanks did not contain any fuel. They are located in the wing between the fuselage and the engine, just aft of the main fuel tanks. Both outer wing tanks located outboard of the engines were empty. The two header/surge tanks were empty. The header/surge tanks are located in the area under the optional rear seat, and are connected to the main fuel tanks. Two drain valves on the right lower side of the fuselage were broken and it appeared fuel had drained out. These two drains are connected to the header/surge tanks. Fuel filters installed on the left and right engines were clean and no evidence of fuel was present.

The Pilots Flight Operating Instructions manual for the aircraft (included) indicates in paragraph 4.b. (1) that warm up, takeoff and the first 15 minutes of flight should be made with the fuel selectors in the reserve position, which did not have any evidence of fuel during the inspection.

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