On Wednesday, July 6, 1994, at 0900 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-24-180, N5839P, piloted by Robert S. Tilston, sustained substantial damage during a precautionary landing in a field in Ellisburg, New York. The pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The airplane was in cruise flight from Leroy, New York to Alexander Bay, New York. The pilot stated that when he switched the fuel selector from the left to the right tank to balance the fuel, the engine began to run roughly. He switched the fuel selector back to the left tank, and the engine performance improved. He decided to not switch fuel tanks a second time.

He determined that the fuel quantity in the remaining tank was insufficient to reach his destination. He looked for another airport to land, but he was unable to locate one. He elected to perform a precautionary landing in a field, but during the landing roll, the airplane encountered soft terrain, and the landing gear collapsed, damaging the right wing spar.

The Federal Aviation Administration found no records of an airplane registration, nor was there an airworthiness certificate. The airplane maintenance records were located and indicated that the last annual inspection was performed on January 6, 1992.

Investigators were unable to obtain the names of the passengers, and the pilot did not respond to repeated requests for completion of NTSB Form 6120.1/2, Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report.

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