On November 7, 2000, about 1100 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper J3C-65, NC33538, was substantially damaged during a forced landing after takeoff from Lewis Landing Airport (NK79), near Middletown, New York. The certificated recreational pilot sustained minor injuries, and the passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot stated that he started the engine, and let it "warm up" for 10 minutes. Then he taxied to Runway 26 at NK79, and performed a run-up. Everything seemed normal, and he departed Runway 26. About 150 feet above the ground, the engine lost all power. The pilot performed a forced landing into trees, and the airplane came to rest on its right side.

The pilot added that the airplane "felt like it ran out of fuel." However, he stated that there was plenty of fuel onboard, and the fuel selector was selected to the "on" position. He further stated that the fuel selector would have to be "on" for the airplane to idle for 10 minutes, taxi, and run-up. He believed that the fuel valve might have vibrated partially closed.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the airplane. While rotating the crankshaft by hand, he obtained thumb compression and confirmed valve train continuity on all cylinders. He also rotated both magnetos by hand, and they produced spark at all leads.

The inspector added that fuel was leaking out of the airplane after the accident, and a witness moved the fuel selector to the "off" position. After the scene was secure, the witness felt that he should leave the airplane as it was found immediately after the accident, and moved the fuel selector back to the "on" position.

The inspector did not observe fuel in the carburetor, but did observe fuel in the gascolator. However, he reiterated that the airplane was somewhat inverted and the fuel selector was moved from "on" to "off" to "on". Additionally, the fuel appeared absent of contamination.

According to the pilot, the airplane engine was manufactured in 1963. It had a total time of 1240.2 hours, and 800.2 hours since overhaul. The owner stated that he misplaced the engine logbook, and was not sure of the exact date of overhaul. He believed the engine was last overhauled sometime during the 1970's.

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