On March 8, 1997, at 1730 hours Pacific standard time, a Ryan Navion, N4969K, owned and operated by the pilot, experienced a total loss of engine power at 800 feet above ground level during the initial climb from runway 29 at the Marina Municipal Airport, Marina, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The pilot reported that he attempted to return to the runway and during the approach, the airplane collided with the airport's perimeter fence and was substantially damaged. The private pilot was not injured. The flight originated from Marina at 1728.

According to the pilot, six new cylinders had been recently installed in the engine, and the purpose of the flight was to complete the break-in process. The pilot indicated the fuel burn-off rate was apparently greater than he had previously calculated. The pilot believed that 8 to 10 gallons of fuel should have been in the main fuel tank at takeoff.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) coordinator reported that he examined the airplane and drained all the fuel which remained in the tanks. The FAA reported finding approximately 0.5 gallon of fuel in the left tip tank, and less than 0.5 gallon in the right tip tank. Also, about 3.0 gallons of fuel were found in the rear seat auxiliary tank, and 1.5 gallons were found in the main tank. The estimated unusable fuel quantity in the main tank is 3.0 gallons.

The FAA coordinator additionally reported that the pilot indicated when engine power was lost, the fuel tank selector was positioned to the main fuel tank.

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