On July 12, 2000, at 1740 central daylight time, a Cessna 172N airplane, N3392E, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power near Columbus, Texas. The airplane was registered to and operated by private individuals. The private pilot and the passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from the Palacios Municipal Airport, Palacios, Texas, at 1640, and was destined for the Heathrow Airport, Robinson, Texas.

The pilot reported that he taxied the airplane about two miles to runway 17 for departure. During a check of the magnetos, the right magneto showed an "excessive rpm drop" of 300-500 rpm. The pilot elected to return to the ramp. The pilot stopped prior to crossing runway 08/26 to check for traffic. At that point he checked the magnetos and both magnetos checked okay. He taxied back to runway 17, checked the magnetos again and found the magnetos and the full throttle rpm to be "normal." After takeoff, when pattern altitude was reached, the pilot turned left downwind for runway 17 and performed another magneto check, which was "normal." The pilot initiated a full power climb to a cruise altitude of 6,500 feet msl. The magnetos were checked during the climb and again after reaching cruise altitude. After several minutes at cruise altitude, a drop in engine rpm was noted. A magneto check revealed a "dead right magneto." The pilot elected to change course to the closest airport with maintenance facilities. "Soon thereafter, all power was lost." The pilot performed the emergency procedures for a loss of power; however, none of these procedures were effective. During the forced landing, "the airplane hit the ground 30-60 feet from first contact with the trees" and skidded another 25-50 feet before coming to rest on its nose, 2.9 miles southwest of Columbus, Texas.

Examination of the airplane by an FAA inspector revealed that the fuselage was displaced to the right aft of the cabin. The left wing was damaged, and the nose landing gear was separated.

According to a representative of the owner, the airplane was recovered to Air Salvage Of Dallas near Lancaster, Texas, where an engine test run was attempted. The engine remained attached to the airplane with all components the same as they were on the date of the accident, with the exception of using a different fuel tank. The engine would not start. The single-drive dual-magneto was removed from the engine, and a bench test revealed that no spark was being produced from either magneto. An examination of the magnetos revealed that the neoprene cam followers on both sets of points had melted and "smeared," which kept the points from opening.

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