On July 16, 2000, at 1415 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N24GK owned and piloted a private pilot, was substantially damaged during a forced landing attempt following a loss of engine power. The pilot landed the airplane approximately 600 feet short of runway 20 (5,199 feet by 100 feet, asphalt) at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Airport (ASX), Ashland, Wisconsin. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and pilot rated passenger reported no injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The flight departed from the Madeline Island Airport, La Pointe, Wisconsin, at 1345.

The pilot reported the following in a written statement:

"Madeline Island (4R5), 1800Z: I called Flight Service and obtained a standard briefing for a VFR domestic flight from Madeline Island toward Marquette, MI and onto Oshkosh which is where the aircraft is hangared. Surface winds were out of 220 at 7 knots at ASX. All along the route the surface winds were from the SW below 10 knots. Winds at 3000 feet were also SW at 5 knots.

Preflight checklist of exterior and interior was conducted with all sumps drained and oil level checked. Fuel sumps revealed no presence of water or contamination solids. Oil registered 7 quarts. Fuel supply was visually checked. Run-up as performed on the ramp adjacent to the FBO. Fuel gauges registered more than half full in each wing. No abnormalities were observed in RPM checks or oil gauges. Avionics and navigation equipment were in working order. Altimeter was set to the field elevation 648 feet. We were not able to pick up ASX ATIS until in the air.

Announcing my intentions on the unicom, I back taxied on 22 and took off with 25 degrees of flaps because of the warm day (27 degrees C), our bags, and the shorter runway (3,000 feet). Flaps were gradually retracted and we climbed straight out until 500 AGL and I then started a climbing right turn to the west...At 1,500 MSL, I noticed the RPMS were dropping, all remaining gauges were observed normal. The tach was at 2,300 and steady moved downward first to 1,800 finally reaching 1,500. As this went on, I informed my husband and started a gentle left turn so as not to [lose] altitude back to the island's airport. The left turn was initiated to keep away from the rising terrain and the town of Bayfield.

As we started the turn, I switched fuel tanks thinking there might be contamination and got an immediate positive response from the engine. The RPMS went to 2,500 which has been normal for this plane and we started to climb. At this time our turn had brought us to a southerly heading.

At this point I consulted with my husband, also a private pilot, who tuned the Garmins to 4R5 and ASX. 4R5 was 8.5 nautical and ASX also came up as around 8.5. The engine appeared to be running normally and we were gaining altitude. We climbed up to 2600 MSL and decided to head for ASX.

The engine continued to run smoothly until five miles out when it began to run rough. I set the plane to best glide, 76 KIAS, and turned the carburetor heat on. I tried different throttle settings trying to smooth out the engine but to no avail. The engine roughness became a hard shimmy and the oil pressure and temperature gauges went down with the enunciator lights coming on. I radioed we had engine trouble and would be landing on 20. At 3.5 miles my husband observed smoke coming from the cowling. I pulled the mixture and at the same moment the engine seized with the prop vertical. I then flipped the master and all overhead switches off.

Until the last 3/4 mile I thought we would make the runway. Keeping best glide we cleared trees and one field but managed to snag a barbed-wire fence at the edge of the airport property causing the nose wheel to veer to the right. We were about 200 yards from the end of runway 20.

We came to rest and immediately exited the plane. We have no injuries. There was no fire or evidence of fuel spillage. There was oil on the cowling and on the brush and weeds around the plane. After a couple minutes, I left my husband with the plane and walked to the FBO where I called Flight Service."

N25GK, serial number 28-43335, accumulated approximately 150 hours of flight time since its date of manufacture in 2000. A Textron Lycoming O-360-A4M, serial number L-37317-36A, powered the airplane. Examination of the engine, under the supervision the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), revealed that the number one connecting rod separated from the crankshaft; the rod cap was not found intact. The crankshaft was not fractured and the propeller could be rotated by hand. There was a 6-inch diameter hole in the engine case. An engine disassembly examination was performed at Textron Lycoming under the supervision of the FAA. The oil passages from the main gallery to the number one and two main bearings contained an abrasive material similar to that used during the engine manufacturing process, which occurred on January 14, 2000.

The airplane and engine were released to the registered owner. The airplane, engine, and propeller logbooks were returned to the registered owner.

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