On September 8, 1994, about 1415 hours mountain daylight time, N2889R, a Cessna 182, operated by the Hornoker Wildlife Research Institution, Moscow, Idaho, collided with terrain and was substantially damaged during a forced landing in Circle, Montana. The forced landing was precipitated by a total loss of engine power. The certified flight instructor (CFI) and private pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed no flight plan had been filed. The instructional flight departed from Williston, North Dakota, en route to Hailey, Idaho, and was conducted under 14 CFR 91.

According to the CFI, the fuel tanks were "topped off" prior to departure on the accident flight in Williston. The CFI stated that he "checked the fuel caps, as always, by reaching up and physically feeling them and visually by standing back and looking." About 25 minutes after departure, the left fuel gauge "was showing steady decline."

According to the CFI:

When the fuel showed one-quarter tank, I decided to land at the next airport, figuring the fuel cap on the left must be leaking. I switched the fuel selector to the left tank to use up the fuel first, then would go to the right tank, which was indicating full. I was approaching Richey, Montana, which is a dirt strip and offers no services, and believing I had the problem resolved and had one full tank remaining, I decided to proceed on to Circle, Montana, 32 miles away. About 8 miles out of Circle, the engine died, so I switched to the right tank and was able to restart the engine. It ran properly for the next 4 miles and again starting cutting out. I switched to both tanks and performed all restarting procedures. It ran intermittently, then died completely on left base to [runway 12] at Circle, Montana. Without the benefit of airport advisory, I was not aware of the 20 plus knot wind out of the south which slowed my forward progress dramatically and caused me to come up short of the runway.

The airplane landed short, slid into a fence and came to rest in a ditch. Both landing gear were sheared off, and the fuselage and right wing were damaged.

The CFI stated that the fuel cap on the right wing was "cross threaded" and "there existed a one-half inch gap between the cap and the wing," The private pilot stated that the CFI performed the pre-flight inspection at the departure airport and must not have visually checked and secured the fuel caps. The private pilot stated that he also did not visually check the fuel caps prior to departure.

An examination of the wreckage by an airframe and powerplant mechanic, under direction of the Safety Board, did not reveal any evidence of fuel in the fuel tanks or carburetor inlet fuel line.

Also, no pre-impact mechanical discrepancies were found during the examination.

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