LAX03LA032
LAX03LA032

On November 16, 2002, at 1115 Pacific standard time, a Bellanca 14-19, N501A, experienced a loss of engine power and ditched in San Pablo Bay during a missed instrument approach at the Napa County Airport (APC), Napa, California. The pilot/owner operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed for the final portion of the flight. The pilot had requested, and received, an instrument clearance for the approach into APC. The flight departed Angwin-Parrett Field (2O3), Angwin, California, about 1030.

In a written statement submitted by the pilot, he stated that the flight originally departed Camarillo Airport (CMA), Camarillo, California, at 0715, on a flight to Napa. The pilot received a weather briefing prior to departure that indicated visual flight rules (VFR) conditions along the entire route of flight except for the Napa area. He departed without filing a flight plan, and decided that if conditions were below instrument flight rules (IFR) minimums he would divert to Angwin. He departed with full fuel tanks consisting of 40 gallons in the main wing tanks (a 20-gallon tank in each wing) and 14 gallons in the auxiliary tank. The pilot did not detect any problems with the airplane during the flight. Upon arriving in the vicinity of Napa he learned that the weather was below IFR minimums. He diverted to Angwin to wait for the weather to improve and landed about 0915. After the Napa weather improved, the pilot departed Angwin at 1030. The pilot said he did not refuel at Angwin, and he determined that he had about 30 total gallons of fuel onboard.

The pilot received an IFR clearance upon approaching APC. During the localizer approach into runway 36L, he was advised that he was too high and to execute a missed approach. During climb out, between 2,500 to 3,000 feet, the engine began to lose power. The pilot requested immediate vectors to APC. During this time, the pilot performed emergency operations: switching fuel tanks, engaging carburetor heat, checking mixture control, and engaging the fuel boost pump. This momentarily restored power, and the pilot advised the approach controller; however, within a few moments the engine again lost partial power. The engine completely lost engine power shortly thereafter.

At this time the pilot broke out of the cloud layer and was approximately 200 feet above ground level (agl) and found only water below him. The pilot advised the controller that he would be landing in the water and then executed a "slow, stalled landing." The aircraft came to rest inverted. The pilot freed himself from the airplane, and a passing fishing boat rescued him.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane. The initial examination showed substantial deterioration to any evidence of engine condition due to salt water. The inspector did not find any evidence of damage or a malfunction that would have caused the engine to stop running. The FAA inspector was unable to determine if there had been fuel on board the airplane at the time of the accident due to water in the airplane's fuel system. Water was also in all of the airplane's systems.

According to information provided by Textron Lycoming, the O-435-A engine's typical fuel consumption is 12 to 14 gallons per hour at 60 percent power, and 16 to 18 gallons per hour at 70 percent power.

A carburetor icing chart indicated serious icing conditions were favorable during the time of the accident.

Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ATRCC) radio transcripts indicated that after the pilot executed the missed approach, the controller issued a holding clearance and the pilot stated "...fuel's getting low..." as a result, the controller issued vectors to intercept the localizer into APC.

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