On July 24, 2005, about 1730 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-22-150, N3818P, was substantially damaged during a forced landing after takeoff from the pilot's private airstrip in Chatham, Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, destined for Danville Regional Airport (DAN), Danville, Virginia.

According to the pilot's written statement, he filled the airplane's right fuel tank with automotive gasoline, and intended to fly to Danville in order to fill the left fuel tank with aviation gasoline. He then performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, which included checking for water at each of the four fuel sump drains. He detected a small amount of dirt and rust in the engine drain sump; however, when he drained the sump a second time, the fuel was clear.

Following the preflight inspection, the pilot entered the cabin, completed the pre-start checklist, and "shifted the gas flow to the left tank." He then started the engine and taxied to the end of the runway, where he completed an engine run up. The pilot then departed the runway at full power.

When the airplane reached about 300 feet above ground level, the engine began to lose power. The pilot immediately identified a clearing in a pasture just beyond a tree line where he could land the airplane. During the approach to the pasture, he attempted to avoid the trees, and the airplane landed hard, then nosed over.

During a subsequent interview, the pilot could not recall if the engine had lost partial or full power.

The wreckage was examined by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector following the accident, and no mechanical deficiencies of the airplane, or the engine, were noted.

The inspector also found that the fuel selector valve was not positively engaged in the left tank detent. The inspector subsequently rotated the valve slightly, and heard it "click" into the detent.

Examination of the airplane's records revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on February 10, 2005. At that time, the airplane's engine was overhauled and reinstalled. The airplane had accumulated 23 hours of operation since that date. Review of the records also revealed that the airplane did not possess a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the use of automotive gasoline.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He reported 492 total hours of flight experience, 65 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model.

The weather reported at Danville, about 19 nautical miles south, at 1756, included calm winds, few clouds at 5,000 feet, temperature 88 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of mercury.

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