On May 25, 1996, at about 1530 eastern daylight time, a Champion 7FC, lost engine power shortly after takeoff at the Bay Bridge Airport, near Stevensville, Maryland. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage when it nosed over during the subsequent forced landing. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, no flight plan was filed. The local pleasure flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot stated that the airplane had just came out of an annual maintenance inspection and that his plan was to fly the airplane to a private airstrip at Kentmorr Airpark (3W3) where his weekend home was located. He said that because the airplane had just had an annual he did an especially thorough preflight examination, beginning by draining gas from all four drains. He said that he found no water and that he visually checked the fuel tanks. He said that he had to get a ladder from one of the hangars so that he could see into the wing tanks. He said that he "...found adequate fuel."

The pilot reported that at approximately 1530 he started the engine, taxied to the runup area, did the runup and noted no problems. He taxied to and took off from runway 29. He said that at about 350 feet above ground level (AGL) the engine "missed" and lost partial power, so he immediately turned downwind, planning to land on the same runway that he took off from. The pilot indicated that as he turned the engine went to idle. He said he immediately pulled the carburetor heat on got a normal drop in rpm and pulled it again. He said that he could not make it back to the airport and elected to land in an open field. Upon landing in the wheat field the airplane flipped over, coming to rest inverted. The pilot said he released his seatbelt and shoulder harness and egressed the airplane to safety. He said that there was a "strong odor of fuel in the air" so he got away from the airplane as soon as possible. His injuries consisted of minor cuts on both knees and his left elbow.

On May 25, 1996, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Inspector examined the airplane at the scene. Examination of the airplane found that there was no fuel remaining in the left fuel tank and less then 1/4 inch of fuel in the right tank when measured. In addition, the FAA Inspector noted that there was know evidence of a fuel spill at the sight. The FAA inspector stated on the FAA Accident Investigation Record that in her opinion the airplane's engine shutdown due to "fuel starvation." However, a subsequent discussion with the inspector found that "fuel exhaustion" and not fuel starvation was the reason for the engine shutdown.

On May 31, 1996, the Safety Board, FAA, and a representative from Continental Engines observed the following at Alphin Aircraft, in Hagerstown, Maryland; the fuselage of the airplane with the engine still attached and the wings removed, had been placed on a flat-bed trailer. An auxiliary fuel tank was connected to the engine fuel lines and was placed on top of the cabin. The propeller was straightened and the engine was run with no other modifications. During the engine run power was increased to 1700 rpm, and the carburetor heat and magnetos were tested and found to function properly with minimal drop in rpm. The engine run lasted for approximately 20 minutes with no identifiable problems.

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