On August 1, 1997, at 2045 eastern daylight time (edt), a Bellanca 17-30A, N8237R, operated by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage when during cruise flight, the airplane's engine lost power. During the subsequent forced landing, the airplane impacted the terrain. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. No flight plan was on file. The pilot reported no injuries. The flight originated at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at 1800 central daylight time (cdt), and was en route to Detroit, Michigan.

In his written statement, the pilot said that he had departed with a main fuel tank selected to feed the engine. Once the airplane got above "4,500 feet," the pilot switched to an auxiliary fuel tank. "Fuel usage was timed using a countdown clock for each tank. Approaching Lansing, [Michigan] I requested and got flight following to Detroit. A few minutes later, my fuel countdown clock signaled time for a fuel cell change." The pilot switched to a full tank. At that time, the engine lost power. The pilot switched to another full tank, but the engine would not start. "I told Lansing Approach of my problem; they gave me the direction to the nearest airport, and I did the Bellanca Viking restart procedure. The plane would not restart." The pilot declared an emergency and force landed the airplane in a cornfield.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector who examined the wreckage found the airplane's engine and cowling bent upward and aft. The nose gear was separated from the airplane. The engine mounts were bent upward and aft. There was a large gouge in the leading edge of the left wing running aft to the forward spar. The left wing spar was bent aft. Flight control continuity was confirmed. One of the airplane's five fuel tanks was empty. The remaining fuel tanks were full of fuel. Examination of the engine, engine controls and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

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