On December 28, 2004, approximately 1826 central standard time, a single-engine Beech BE35 airplane, N860R, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power near Los Fresnos, Texas. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. A flight plan was not filed for the flight that originated from the Gladewater Municipal Airport (07F), near Gladewater, Texas, at 1520, and destined for the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO), near Brownsville, Texas. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

In a written statement, the 1,172-hour pilot reported that when he was approximately 30 miles from Brownsville, he made a "fairly rapid" descent from an altitude of 8,500 feet mean sea level (msl) down to 1,200 feet msl. When he added power to level off, the engine "coughed" and "sputtered." The pilot was able to restart the engine momentarily by adjusting the mixture and turning on the fuel boost pump, but it lost power a second time. The pilot made a forced landing to an open field with the landing gear retracted. Before exiting the airplane, he turned off all of the electrical switches and placed the fuel selector to the "off" position.

Examination of the airplane by an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the accident site, revealed the firewall was bent. The inspector reported there was no fuel in the auxiliary tanks, 20 gallons in the left main tank, and approximately 15 gallons in the right main fuel tank.

The pilot reported that he purchased the airplane in June 2001, and since that time, he had experienced a loss of engine power in flight on three different occasions. Each time he was able to restore power. After each of these power losses, the pilot had the airplane examined by an FAA certificated airframe and power plant mechanic, but no discrepancies could be identified.

The engine was test-run at Teledyne Continental Motors, Mobile, Alabama, under the supervision of the Safety Board. The engine started immediately and ran at various power settings without interruption for approximately 30 minutes. No mechanical deficiencies were noted.

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