On November 24, 2000, about 1030 Eastern Standard Time, a Bellanca BL-17-30A, N280H, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Union, Connecticut. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured and the passenger sustained minor injuries. The flight originated at Farmingdale Regional Airport (FRG) Farmingdale, New York, at 0945, destined for Worcester Regional Airport (ORH), Worcester, Massachusetts. No flight plan was filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector interviewed the pilot. According to the inspector's record of conversation, the pilot stated that he was descending through 3,000 feet when the engine quit without warning. The pilot also stated he had "plenty of fuel", and was not successful in restarting the engine.

The pilot also reported that he "sumped" the aircraft prior to departure and there was no evidence of water. He stated that he visually checked the fuel quantity, and it "looked almost topped." Based on the pilot's calculations, he had plenty of fuel for the flight. He also stated that his fuel quantity gauges had been giving him trouble and he did not trust them.

The FAA inspector performed an on-scene examination on November 24, 2000. Examination of the airplane revealed that the airplane came to rest in wooded terrain 21 miles south of ORH. The airplane was found resting on its left side, with the right wing standing vertically in the air. The left wing had separated from the airplane and was found about 30-feet behind the main wreckage. The gear handle was found in the up position, but the gear was extended. The flaps were retracted and control continuity was established from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces.

The right wing fuel system remained intact and was not ruptured. There was no fuel found in the right wing fuel tanks. Two of the three left fuel tanks were found separated from the left wing and were found near the wing. Both fuel tanks sustained impact damage, but a half-gallon of fuel was found in one of the tanks. Examination of the fuel revealed there was no evidence of contamination. Additionally, there was no evidence of fuel spillage or discoloration of foliage at the site.

The fuel selector handle was found in the "right" tank position.

A 15-gallon auxiliary fuel tank was located in the area of the rear seat and was full of fuel. Examination of the fuel selector placard revealed there was no indication of an "aux" position; however, the selector could be moved to a position beyond the "left" tank position, and could be aligned with a white spot worn on the trim cover.

The fuel feed line to the flow divider from the fuel pump was disassembled and there was no evidence of fuel in the line. The main fuel line from the fuel tanks to the fuel pump was also disassembled at the firewall, and no evidence of fuel was noted. Several of the fuel injector lines were disassembled at the fuel injector and no evidence of fuel was noted. The engine driven fuel pump was removed and appeared intact, and there was no evidence of fuel in the pump.

All three-propeller blades exhibited little to no damage. The engine was rotated by hand and continuity was established through the power train and valve train to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method. During the compression check, spark was produced on all magneto terminal leads.

The pilot reported a total of 480 flight hours, of which 200 hours were in make and model. The pilot also reported that his last biennial flight review was conducted on March 28, 1998, in a Cessna 172.

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