On October 13, 1996, at 1545 eastern daylight time (edt), a Cessna 182, N5720B, owned and piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed while landing short of runway 27 at Hillsdale Municipal Airport, Hillsdale, Michigan, following a total loss of engine power. The pilot asked Toledo Approach Control to divert to Hillsdale Municipal Airport due to fuel shortage. The pilot and one passenger reported serious injuries. The second and third passengers reported minor injuries. The personal 14 CFR Part 91 flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions. A VFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Du Bois, Pennsylvania, at 1010 edt with the intended destination of Zeeland, Michigan.

According to the pilot's written statement, he filed a VFR flight plan with a refueling stop at about 2 to 2 1/2 hours en route. The pilot fueled the airplane the night before with automotive fuel which he has a STC for. After takeoff, he climbed and leveled off at 4500 feet. At 2 hours and 40 minutes, they made a fuel and rest stop at Henry County Airport, Napoleon, Ohio. The Airport was closed. The pilot checked his fuel level with an dip stick with a total of 19-20 gallons of fuel remaining. The pilot decided to continue to Hillsdale Airport to refuel. The pilot informed Toledo Approach Control about his stop over and about his fuel problem. During the descent into Hillsdale Airport for the downwind to runway 27 at 1 to 2 miles out, the engine began to lose power. The pilot held best glide speed. As he entered downwind for the runway, the engine started cutting out, he figured he was too low to make the base to final turn so he attempted to land in a field next to the runway. At this point the engine restarted and the momentary surge carried him over the tree line, when it quit again and the airplane impacted the trees.

Post accident examination of the airplane by the Federal Aviation Administration Principal Maintenance Inspector (PMI), said he located the wing tip and two pieces of the right wing leading edge approximately fifty feet from the remainder of the airplane. The left wing was resting in a tree. PMI removed the left wing to a level area, and upon raising the tip and wiggling it, obtained approximately three quarts of fuel. Upon removal of the right wing, no fuel was found. The pilot informed the PMI about having problems with fuel siphoning, and that mechanics had been working on that problem that only occurred in flight and not on the ground. On November 5, 1996, the PMI inspected the fuel cells by removing the top access panels, and found all eight retaining clips dislodged on both cells. The right hand cell retained its shape fairly well, however the left cell collapsed. Both fuel filler caps were of the latest design by Cessna, and were intact. The auto- STC decal was affixed to the fuel filler door. A small amount of residual fuel was in the strainer and was auto-fuel. The fuel strainer had a minute amount of sediment. The fuel strainer to carburetor hose was in good condition internally and externally and was of aircraft grade. Review of the airplane's logs did not indicate any maintenance relating to the fuel siphoning problem as related by the pilot/owner.

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