On August 21, 1997, about 1335 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N47900, was substantially damaged during a forced landing to the Jim Shearer South Airport, Blairsville, Pennsylvania. The certificated commercial pilot and passenger reported minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at Auburn, Maine at 0830, destined for Latrobe, Pennsylvania. An IFR plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot provided a statement to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector. According to the Record of Conversation provided by the FAA Inspector, the pilot said he visually verified that the airplane had full fuel tanks prior to departure. The pilot estimated that would provide 6 hours of fuel endurance for the anticipated 4 hour and 50 minute flight.

The pilot reported that when he was approaching his destination the engine started to "miss". He stated that he switched fuel tanks, and power was restored. At approximately 1330, the engine stopped producing power and the pilot turned for a forced landing at the Jim Shearer Airport.

In a written statement, the pilot said he encountered "moderate to severe turbulence" during the flight and was forced to change altitude several times to find smoother air. When the engine began to miss, he switched fuel tanks back and forth searching for more fuel, achieving only temporary restorations of engine power. The pilot said:

"I used rudder to rock the plane to see if there was more [fuel], it started again briefly but then nothing."

The pilot stated he was on final approach for Runway 15, when he was forced to turn to avoid a helicopter flying the opposite direction. The airplane collided with terrain next to the runway.

The Hobbs meter reflected 5.1 hours from the time of departure.

Examination by the FAA Inspector revealed no evidence of fuel in the airplane.

Examination of photographs provided by the FAA revealed the wreckage path was on a flat grass apron abeam and parallel to the landing runway. The initial impact crater was at the departure end of the landing runway.

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