On October 19, 2002, about 1025 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-235, N9483W, collided with the ground during a forced landing shortly after departing the Van Nuys Airport, Van Nuys, California. Shane Masonry & Concrete, Inc., was operating the airplane under the provisions 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal local flight originated from Van Nuys with the planned destination of Brackett Field, La Verne, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

During a telephone interview with a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, the pilot stated that shortly after takeoff and during initial climb out, the airplane experienced a loss of engine power. The pilot verified the position of the fuel selector and engine settings, but was unable to determine the source of the problem. The pilot stated that due to the airplane's low altitude, he was focused on finding a suitable emergency landing location.

The pilot added that as he was performing a forced landing, the airplane's main landing gear impacted terrain during landing rollout and the airplane nosed over. The airplane sustained damage to the landing gear, motor mounts, and propeller. The pilot could not recall the quantity of fuel onboard the airplane at the time of the accident.

During a telephone interview with a Safety Board investigator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector who responded to the accident stated that while examining the wreckage, he noted that the fuel selector was selected to the "OFF" position, consistent with the pilot performing a post accident engine shutdown. The inspector recalled the pilot stating that one of the two tip (outboard) tanks was selected at the time of the accident. While examining the fuel tanks, the inspector found residual fluid, resembling aviation fuel, remaining in both of the two tip tanks. Fuel was found in both inboard tanks. He opined that the amount of fuel found in the outboard tanks was an insufficient supply to power the engine during normal flight maneuvers.

The Airplane Flight Manual for the PA28-235 specifies, "take-off should be made on the fullest main tank."

During the telephone interview, the inspector added that the fuel inlet line and filter screen were secure and absent of debris, as were the remaining fuel lines located in the engine compartment. The inspector then proceeded to measure the amount of fuel remaining in the carburetor; he drained 1 ½ ounces of fluid consistent with the appearance and odor of aviation fuel via the carburetor drain plug.

Under the auspices of the FAA, an investigator from the engine manufacturer, Textron Lycoming, performed an examination of the airplane and engine at hangar facilities located at the Van Nuys airport. In his written report, the engine representative stated that visual examination of the engine revealed no evidence of catastrophic mechanical malfunction or fire. The spark plugs were secure at each position with their respective spark plug lead attached. He removed and examined the top spark plugs. The electrodes displayed coloration consistent with normal operation according to the Champion Spark Plug Check-A-Plug chart AV-27.

The Lycoming investigator rotated the crankshaft by hand using the propeller, and it moved easily and rotated freely in both directions. He obtained thumb compression on all six cylinders in proper firing order. During rotation of the crankshaft, he established mechanical continuity throughout the rotating group and accessory section. A borescope inspection revealed no mechanical deformation of the valves, cylinder walls, internal cylinder heads, or pistons.

The investigator found the left and right magnetos securely clamped at their respective mounting pad. The magnetos produced spark at their respective spark plug leads during hand rotation; magneto to engine timing was within the manufacturer's specifications. He established electrical continuity from the magnetos to the cockpit mounted ignition switch.

The carburetor remained undamaged and securely attached. The carburetor fuel bowl was free of visible contaminates and the float assembly was unrestricted. Throttle and mixture controls remained securely attached, and the investigator established continuity to the cockpit. The induction air filter exhibited no evidence of preimpact obstruction to airflow.

The report further stated that removal and examination of the engine driven fuel pump revealed no evidence of internal mechanical malfunction or obstruction to fuel flow. The inspector performed a functional test of the fuel system, noting a steady discharge from the main fuel tanks, consistent with engine operation. The report identified no other discrepancies with the engine.

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