On December 22, 2002, at 1700 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-235, N8555W, operated by a commercial pilot, experienced a nose gear collapse during an off airport forced landing following a loss of engine power. The pilot and passenger were not injured. The airplane received substantial damage. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The last leg of the flight originated at Pontiac, Michigan, at 1615.

The pilot reported that while en route to his destination, the engine power dropped to 1,300 rpm. He stated he applied carburetor heat, turned on the auxiliary fuel pump, and switched fuel tanks to no avail. The pilot reported that the passenger checked the engine instruments and all indications were normal. The pilot contacted the Willow Run Air Traffic Control Tower and informed them of the situation, stating that he was going to land at their airport. After turning toward the airport, the pilot determined he was not going be able to reach the airport, so he pilot selected a plowed field in which to land. The nose gear collapsed during the landing and the airplane came to rest on the engine cowling and main landing gear.

The airplane's engine was examined by inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration Detroit, Michigan, Flight Standards District Office. The inspectors reported that the number 2 cylinder exhaust valve was broken off and a piece of the number 2 cylinder was missing. Portions of the exhaust valve and valve stem were recovered from the engine. Visual examination revealed the fractured surfaces were deformed and obscured by impact damage to such a degree that the failure mode could not be determined.

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